Colorado Water History
Archival Tips: Finding Women in Western Water History
The history of water in the West has been dominated by men. Thus, finding documentation of women within Water Resources Archive collections can be a challenge. Women were often excluded or unacknowledged, whether intentionally or through a lack of resources. Although they may not be labeled or identified, women are present in the collections.
To discover these women, use the following search tips in either the Water Resources Archive's finding aids or the digital repository. Note that not all collections have a finding aid and few collections are fully digitized. Also note that because digitized materials are cataloged more thoroughly than entire collections, women have a better chance of surfacing in the digital repository than in finding aids. Contact us (info at right) for assistance at any time.
- Search for known names, either of an identified person or names typically given to women (e.g., Mary).
- Search for female pronouns or titles (Mrs., Miss, or Ms.).
- If seeking older (esp. pre-1950s) materials, search for words associated with "typical" roles women held, such as "secretary" or "wife".
- If seeking women in relation to a particular subject or geographic area, first identify the relevant collections (see our collection suggestions) and then search or browse for women's names or roles.
- In a person's collection, look for personal correspondence and then browse to see if women turn up as correspondents.
- In an organization's collection, look for lists of officers, board members, or other leadership to identify women. These might be in meeting minutes or annual reports.
- Look through archival documents after (or around) important dates relating to historically important changes for women. Once certain laws were passed or permissions were granted, women were more likely to appear in documents.
- Examine photographs. Though you cannot always identify a person's gender from a picture, you can make an educated guess and use information in or associated with the photograph to learn more about the women you identify. This may require some genealogical searching for family relationships or business searching for professional relationships.
Archival Tips: Women in the Water Archive
Women's collections in the Water Resources Archive:
- Papers of Fannie Cunningham
- Papers of Diane Hoppe (no finding aid) - Diane Hoppe (1947-2016) served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999 to 2006.
- Papers of Loretta Lohman (no finding aid) - Loretta Lohman served as Colorado's Nonpoint Source Outreach Coordinator from 1999 to 2014.
- Slides of Mildred T. Axtell
- Papers of Robert and Daphne Illeman - Daphne Illeman (1921-2016) worked as an engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation in the 1940s.
Collections containing women's perspectives:
- Water Oral Histories Collection - includes oral histories with female family members of water professionals, and two modern woman water professionals
- Cache la Poudre Oral History Project Collection - includes oral histories with women residents and/or water professionals in the area
- David McComb Big Thompson Flood Collection - includes oral histories with women who experienced the 1976 flood
- Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family - includes papers of many of his female family members, one set being diaries (dated 1862 and 1902-1912) written by his mother-in-law Sarah Carr Hogarty
- Ival V. Goslin Water Resources Collection - includes some of his wife Marcelyn Goslin's personal papers
- Records of the Land Rights Council - Shirley Romero Otero was one of the founders of the LRC, and a number of women have served on the board.
- Records of Xeriscape Colorado, Inc. - Nancy Leavitt coined the term "xeriscape," and many women were involved in the organization.
Some of our favorite women embedded in Water Resources Archive collections:
- Vena Pointer - a water lawyer in the Arkansas Valley who corresponded frequently with Delph Carpenter; see her Wikipedia page
- Dot Carpenter - Delph Carpenter’s wife, who was an aid to him as he became increasingly ill; see her virtual exhibit
- Stella Newell - secretary for the North Poudre Irrigation Company in the 1930s and 1940s who knew all the company's business (and the local gossip!)
- Della Laura - CSU's first female to earn a Ph.D. in civil engineering (1974), Della was a student of Maury Albertson. (She also went by Della Langeland and Della Bennett.)
Find these ladies through the finding aids linked above, or search for their names in the digital repository. And feel free to contact us for assistance (info at right) at any time.
Archival Tips: Secondary Sources on Women in the West
Understanding the role of women in the American West, through secondary sources such as those listed below, can help in searching archival collections for them.
Duby, Georges, Michelle Perrot, and Pauline Schmitt Pantel. A History of Women in the West. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1993.
Gray, Susan E., and Gayle Ann Gullett. Contingent Maps: Rethinking Western Women's History and the North American West. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014.
Leckie, Shirley A., and Nancy J. Parezo. Their Own Frontier: Women Intellectuals Re-Visioning the American West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
Scharff, Virginia. Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Scharff, Virginia, and Carolyn Brucken. Home Lands: How Women Made the West. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
Wayne, Tiffany K. Women's Roles in Nineteenth-century America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007.
Women Connected to the Land Grant Mission
Radke-Moss, Andrea G. Bright Epoch: Women & Coeducation in the American West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
Halverson, Cathryn. Playing House in the American West: Western Women’s Life Narratives, 1839-1987. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2013.
Hensley, Marcia Meredith. Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West. Glendo, Wyo.: High Plains Press, 2008.
Women in Colorado History
Beaton,Gail M. Colorado Women: A History. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2012.
Colorado Encyclopedia: Notable Women
History Colorado: Center for Colorado Women's History