For Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Fort Collins women who influenced the world with the help of our friends at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. We hope that insights into the lives of these unique women stimulate further research and discovery.
Elizabeth “aunt” stone | Founding mother of Fort Collins
Elizabeth and her husband Lewis came to Colorado in 1862 in a covered wagon pulled by cows. Two years later they built a house and an officers mess at the border post that would later become Fort Collins. This made Elizabeth the first non-native woman to live permanently in Fort Collins. Elizabeth turned the officers’ mess into a public hotel in 1867, where she cooked meals and baked treats for the officers. Her caring family nature earned her the nickname “Aunt” among soldiers. After the Fort of Fort Collins closed down in 1867, Elizabeth thrived as a business woman. She continued in the business of operating hotels at the Pioneer Hotel from her stateroom before purchasing the Blake House Hotel in 1873. She also founded the Lindell Mills, Fort Collins’ first mill.
Elizabeth “Aunt” Stone’s legacy lives on in Fort Collins today. Her cabin, recognized as the oldest building in Fort Collins, is now in the Heritage Courtyard in Liberty Park. Aunt Stone Street is named after her. She was an influential businesswoman and helped build community through her kindness and hospitality.
Jovita Vallecillo Lobato | education Trailblazer
Jovita moved to Fort Collins when she was 4 years old. Like many in the early 1900s, Jovita’s parents worked in the sugar beet fields around Fort Collins. They understood that better life was possible through education and encouraged Jovita and her younger brother Salvador to work hard in school and attend college.
Jovita graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1932. She was the first Mexican-American student to graduate from a Fort Collins public school. She attended Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University). In 1936, she became the first Mexican American to graduate from Colorado Agricultural College with a degree in economics and sociology and a minor in education. She received her Masters in Psychology and has taught in schools in Colorado, New Mexico, and New Jersey. In 1996, Jovita and her brother Salvador were honored at the CSU El Centro Achievement Awards. That year 1,095 Hispanic students were enrolled at the CSU, following in Jovita’s footsteps.
Margaret Martinez | Community Builder
Margaret lived for a long time in Alta Vista, a parish in Fort Collins. Not only did she live in the ward, Margaret built and maintained church connections for generations. Margaret’s family came to Fort Collins from northern New Mexico in the early 20th century to work in the sugar beet fields at a young age.
Margaret married her husband Charles in 1927. The two moved from place to place, worked in the sugar beet fields and saved up for a house that they bought 10 years later. They bought their house in Alta Vista in 1937 on what is now Martinez Street (named after Charles). Originally a two-room Adobe building, they bought their home from Great Western Sugar for $ 190. Over the years Margaret and Charlie improved their home and raised their seven children there. They also made an effort to improve Alta Vista. Both Margaret and Charlie became active community leaders and requested that essentials such as a sewer system be brought to the residents of Alta Vista. Margaret struggled to build better lives for her children and others in Alta Vista.
Hattie McDaniel | Actress and activist
A pioneer in acting, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American woman to receive Oscar recognition for her role in Gone With The Wind in 1939. Hatty earned credits in 80 films throughout her acting career and paved the way for African American actors to follow her consequences.
Born into slavery, Hattie’s parents, Susan, and Henry moved their family to Fort Collins in 1901 and lived there for several years before moving to Denver. They called Colorado home for the rest of their lives. In Fort Collins, Hattie attended Franklin School as a third grader. She was the only African American student in her class.
From a young age, Hattie had a passion for drama and performance. She started out as a radio artist for the KOA station in Denver before continuing her acting career. Hattie is known not only as an accomplished actress, but also for her work as a civil rights activist. She advocated ending restrictive racial alliances in California. In 2016, Hattie’s family home in Fort Collins at 317 Cherry Street was inaugurated and a plaque was placed next to the door.
Martha Scott Trimble | Educator & art sponsor
Martha was a lifelong resident of Fort Collins. She attended Fort Collins High School, where she was involved with Spilled Ink, the school newspaper, the National Honor Society, and the Latin Club. After graduation, Martha attended college at Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University), where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1936.
Martha found a passion for education and became a college English teacher in 1940. During World War II, Martha joined Navy WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She served as a navigation instructor and technical writer and became a first lieutenant. She taught pilots at Naval Air Base in Pensacola, Florida. After the war Martha returned to Fort Collins and taught. She was very active in clubs including the Fort Collins Historical Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the American Association of University Women. She was also a great supporter of the arts in Fort Collins, organizing the local artists’ cooperative, now Trimble Court Artisans, in downtown Fort Collins.
More instrumental women from Fort Collins
This is a far cry from an extensive list of all the women in Fort Collins who have made and continue to make history. Thank you to our friends at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for writing this post in partnership with Elevations Credit Union. Please visit their website to learn more about these women and the history of Larimer County.
All photos courtesy of The Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.