February, 1894, the Woman’s Industrial Legion, a populist secret order, opened headquarters in Denver and organized branch societies throughout the state. The Woman’s Populist League of Denver was their leading organization. It continued its work through the municipal and county campaigns of 1895, and the state and national campaign of 1896, with Mrs. Alice W. Faulkner as its president. In practical campaign work the populist women, for the most part, concentrated their efforts with the men in the committee and club organizations of the party, though they maintained numerous clubs of their own in the state.
At the People’s Party Arapahoe County Convention in September, 1894, Mrs. H. S. Stansbury, Mrs. Marian Sheridan and Mrs. Nellie E. Matteson of Denver, were nominated candidates for the General Assembly and these were the only legislative nominees among the women in the state by that party. The republicans nominated Mrs. Clara Cressingham, Denver; Mrs. Carrie C. Holly, Pueblo; Mrs. Frances S. Klock, Denver, all of whom were elected.
In March, 1894, the women, irrespective of party, performed their first work in the political field under appointment as canvassers to register the female vote. The first woman to aspire to office was Miss Carrie West, who was nominated by the republicans for town clerk of Highlands, then a suburb of Denver, but defeated.
June, 1894, the annual convention of the National Republican League clubs was held in Denver. At that time there was no organization of the republican women in the state. The republican leaders, realizing the need of such organization, selected Mrs. Frank Hall, whom they persuaded to take charge of the woman’s department of the campaign work, under the general direction of the Republican State Central Committee. Her first and most important duty was that of organizing women’s republican clubs in all the counties of the state.
For the democratic women the campaign presented a complex state of affairs. Owing to a division in their party, and the acknowledged possibility of its success in that race, the women realized that they were in an uncertain attitude, unorganized and without leaders. But it was this condition that created leaders among them, developing an unknown wealth of latent talent with which they had been peculiarly endowed for use in the time of need.
The first democratic women to take action upon this decision were Mrs. Anna Marshall Cochran and Mrs. Mary C. C. Bradford of Denver. By arrangement between these two, the first meeting of democratic women was held at the residence of Mrs. Bradford in May, 1894, and the first women’s democratic club was organized. “The Colorado Women’s Democratic Club” was the name given this organization, and it started on its mission with a membership of only nine. Mrs. Mary V. Macon was chosen president, Mrs. Anna Marshall Cochran, secretary, and Mrs. Mary Holland Kincaid, treasurer. The membership of the club rapidly increased, and, to the honor of its promoters, in a short time it was accepted by the National Democratic Committee as the only straight democratic organization in Colorado. By this authority Mrs. Mary C. C. Bradford was appointed as state organizer. Mrs. Cochran in her capacity of secretary raised the necessary funds to pay the expenses of the organizer and started her upon her mission. Mrs. Bradford canvassed the state, making a number of speeches. In this tour she added to her reputation the highest encomiums of the press for her delightful oratory and her superior reasoning powers. Taking letters from each chairman of the two State Central committees, wherever she appeared she usually succeeded in drawing both factions to her meetings. She organized twelve strong clubs in the state and started them to work under her own instruction. Mrs. Cochran was practically at the head of the democratic women’s campaign, and she and her able assistants did more than the men to reunite the factions.
Every bill introduced or urged by women in the two sessions of the Legislature following their admission to suffrage was designed for an improvement of social conditions. In the session of 1895 the law raising the age of protection from sixteen to eighteen years, the law giving the mother an equal right to her children, and the law creating a home for friendless and incorrigible girls were secured by the women; and they aided in securing the home for dependent children. The bills introduced and advocated by them, but failing of passage were: Initiative and referendum, civil service reform, state control of the liquor traffic, Guttenburg system of license, indeterminate sentence, the new primary law, which was designed to abolish the convention and its attendant evils. In 1897 they secured the Curfew law, an appropriation for the Home for Dependent Children and advocated many measures for the improvement of domestic and industrial conditions.
The list of reform legislative measures to whose establishment the work of the women has largely contributed, is a long one, and in addition to those enumerated, especial mention should be made of the following acts:
Establishing parental or truant schools;
making father and mother joint heirs of deceased child;
making it a misdemeanor to fail to support aged and infirm parents;
making education compulsory for all children between the ages of eight and sixteen;
other strict compulsory education measures and laws against child labor;
providing for the examination of the eyes, ears, teeth, and breathing capacity of school children (the bill from which this law was enacted was prepared by a woman physician and is the most comprehensive of all such laws in existence in the United States);
requiring lessons in the public schools on the humane treatment of animals:
prohibiting men from being supported by the earnings of immoral women;
abolishing the binding out of girls committed to the State Industrial School;
enabling school boards to pension teachers;
requiring the joint signature of husband and wife to every chattel mortgage, sale of household goods used by the family or conveyance or mortgage of a homestead;
validating the wills of married women;
factory inspection, requiring three inspectors, one of whom shall be a woman;
establishing a State Traveling Library Commission consisting of women;
establishing the indeterminate sentence for prisoners;
for the inspection of private eleemosynary institutions by the State Board of Charities;
making the methods of the sweat-box in connection with the examination of prisoners a felony;
requiring that at least three of the six members of county visiting boards shall be women;
a pure food law;
for tree preservation;
prohibiting the killing of doves except in August;
eight hour law for women;
minimum wage law; and mothers’ compensation act.
Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918