As Women’s History Month comes to an end, I reflect on the many inspiring stories involving the strength and innovation of women who have held a vital role in American history.
Today, I want to highlight a few great females who forged forward, making a difference in Sterling and the surrounding area.
Back around 1914, a group of women in the Zeta Zeta Club, Sterling Reviewers Club, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, gained permission from their husbands and the city to apply for an Andrew Carnegie library grant. They held fundraisers to earn money for books and furnishings. In 2002, with the generous council of Lydia Vandemoer (1926-2017), my history research of the Old Library in Sterling for designation on the Registry of Historic Places, located names like Mrs. E.C. Withrow, Mrs. J.M. Sanders, and Mrs. A.D Jackson to name three. (Note: Their husband’s names and initials were used instead of the women’s names)
There would be no Carnegie Library in Sterling without their foresight and coordinated efforts.
When the library opened in 1918, a small bronze statue by local artist Mabel Landrum Torrey (1886-1974) was a gift to the library. The original sculpture, located in Washington Park, was commissioned by Denver’s Mayor Speer. After a long jogging tour of the park, I found it. The sweet life-size marble faces from my childhood nursery rhyme, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod were worth the hunt.
During one of the first open-houses after purchasing the Old Library, I met Merino author Nell Brown Propst. Her intense eyes let me know her small frame was a facade to her powerful convictions. Her passion was to give pioneer women a voice. Her books, including “Those Strenuous Dames of the Colorado Prairie,” are available at the Overland Trail Museum.
Norma Nab, another present-day exemplary woman, loaned me a precious book, “Dr. Portia”; an autobiography of Dr. Portia McNight (1887-1978) who opened her medical office in Sterling in 1936. She was the first Chief of Staff at the new Logan County Hospital which opened in 1954.
In two-thousand something, I conducted training for the city of Brush at their Carnegie Library in the Anna Petteys room. Anna (1892-1974) was an accomplished educator, author, and newspaperwoman. In a documentary, Nell Propst said of Anna, “She and the rest of us created the best little city in the state.”
The prestigious Anna Petteys scholarship has been awarded to three outstanding senior girls in Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma counties since 1971.
My heart is full as I think of the impressive accomplishment of our local women. In this column, I’ve only had room to spark your interest. A trip to the museum can give full credit to these plus many more significant women.
Please recognize, the due diligence of these women along with our mothers, grandmothers, and teachers, who gave us the chance to truly say, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”
A big thank you to another talented local woman, Kay Brigham Rich at the Overland Trails Museum for sharing her extensive research.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
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