In honor of our 48th anniversary, the Executive Board of the Democratic Women of Boulder County (DWBC) proposed the compilation of a history of the organization. This is not the first such history. Earlier, Nancy Kraushaar and Marian Martell put together a scrapbook. It was kept at Democratic Party headquarters, but as the party moved around, the scrapbook was misplaced or lost. Later, Janet Roberts suggested that each president write a short paragraph on the accomplishments of her term. We failed to act on this suggestion. In 1984, President Vija Handley asked Janet Roberts and Kay Shapley to write a history. Janet did a brief history for our 1980 anniversary. For the 25th anniversary, Kathy Cook did a collage of clippings and facts.
This current report is a compilation of speakers, issues, and fundraising activities. In no way is it meant to be a complete history of the group. However, for the many new members who have just moved to Boulder, this record should give them an inkling of our past.
Democratic Women of Boulder County began as an organization in 1962. While there had been a Jane Jefferson group in the county, the women decided to go it alone and form a new group that would be more proactive. These women urged Professor Doris Havice to run for the state legislature. Professor Havice was one of the first women to seek state office in the county. Although her campaign was not successful, it showed women what they could accomplish in the political arena.
This new organization stated their purpose under Article II of their original constitution (Bylaws):
The purpose of the Democratic Women of Boulder shall be to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation in Democratic Party politics.
The purpose was enlarged in a 1971 revision to read:
The purpose of the democratic women of boulder county is to create interest in the democratic party among its member and the community at large. It tries to do this by discussing political issues, making it possible for the women to meet and hear party leaders, and raising money to aid the county organization and to carry out its program. It is hoped that women will eventually want to work as volunteers for the democratic party, either through the Democratic Women of Boulder County, the Boulder County Central Committee, or for the candidates of their choice. It is the policy of the Democratic Women of Boulder County not to endorse any particular candidate within the party. [-From a memo to Cynthia Russell, President of DWBC in 1997, from Janet Roberts of the Bylaws Committee.]
As revised by a vote of the membership in 1997, Article II now reads, "The purpose of the Democratic Women of Boulder County shall be to promote community responsibility and to encourage informed active participation in Democratic Party politics."
In the early years, when our name appeared in The Boulder Daily Camera, it read "Democratic Women’s Club of Boulder." In February of 1965, we voted unanimously to rename our organization "Democratic Women of Boulder County." Years later we voted to eliminate the word Club from our title. The group felt that the use of the word made our organization sound exclusionary, which we are not. We agreed to let men become members in the early 1970s when Liz Seastone’s son, Brian, wanted to become an active member.
Janet Weir, the first president of DWBC, was a good role model. In 1964, she became the historian for the Colorado General Assembly, keeping track of all the bills on the floor. In the same year, Virgeen Hedgecock, another Boulder woman activist, was appointed vice-chair of the Democratic State Central Committee by Robert Maytag, Chair of the Colorado State Democratic Party.
The minutes of the DWBC Executive Board meeting of June 7, 1972, report that Kay Boyne, president that year, said the group had been criticized for taking stands on social issues. Kay had been faulted for taking a stand on the Winter Olympics coming to our state. Some suggested that controversial issues should be brought to the entire membership for decision-making. Appointed by Kay to study where social action fits in were Nancy Alexandre, Zoellen Zafirtos, Sandy Roberts, Ethel Harrold, Emmy Lerma, Rosemary Longweidel, Anna Marie Robb, and Kay Stehlik.
The study led to the addition of Article VIII in the Constitution as follows:
SECTION 4: The Executive Board and/or the membership in any given year and for that given year may make a public statement on an issue provided that:
A. The issue shall be presented to a gathering of the membership by a 2/3 absolute majority vote of the Executive Board. There shall be an opportunity for both sides of an issue to be presented to the membership. A simple majority of members present and voting shall be required to make a decision, provided a quorum is present.
B. When time constraints exist, the Executive Board shall approve the action to be taken by a 2/3 majority of Board members. However, if three members of the Executive Board object to the action to be taken, the action must be referred to the membership as in Section A above.
In October of 1964, we held an old-fashioned “hootenanny” for the local candidates at the Eldorado Springs Resort. Ronald Besescu, owner of the Charcoal Chef Restaurant, agreed to provide a free dinner to the first 250 people to attend. Entertainment was provided by instrumentalists (all good Dems) and Jan Weir and her committee provided special lyrics for the occasion. A good time was had by all and the party lasted into the wee hours.
Food and fundraising seem to go together. Women spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for their families, so what could be more natural than producing cookbooks? The DWBC has published two. The first, in 1969, was called Cook Stirring Constantly. Bev Sanders oversaw the production and sale of our second book in 1990. It was titled Best of Boulder Cookbook. Bake sales also played an important role in fundraising and one, under the direction of Mary Skumanich, earned a profit of $286 in December 1971.
We often had trouble finding meeting places for our luncheons. One occasion in the early 1970s found us meeting upstairs in what was then Don’s Cheese and Sausage Mart (now Robb’s Music on Canyon Boulevard). During these years, many of the women enjoyed a glass of wine with their lunch. Don didn’t have a liquor license, but that didn’t stop plucky Marion Higman! She brought gallon jugs of wine along and sold the wine at $1.00 a glass. (We weren’t obeying the state liquor code, but we didn’t realize it at the time.)
We held our first combined home tour and bake sale in May of 1965. Tickets were only $1.50. The homes on the tour were those of Richard Kruegar, Dr. and Mrs. Ted Volsky, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Ben Wheat, Dr. and Mrs. Sherburne McFarlan. Betty Lovelace was in charge. A second house tour in 1971 with Mary Lind in charge was also successful. This was followed by a third tour a few years later. We decided not to do house tours as fundraisers any longer when competition from non-profits, such as Historic Boulder, made them less profitable.
We held a picnic in conjunction with the county Democratic Party in August of 1971. It was held near Gold Hill on the property of the Handleys. Frank Finn of the Gold Hill Inn provided the food and did the barbecue. Finn helped to make the picnic a great success. (Later we decided not to do more picnics in the mountains, as it was difficult for some of our members to get there.)
In the 1980s, we attended benefit theatre performances at the Nomad Playhouse. One such play was Charlie’s Aunt. Our benefit performance was on May 24, 1984. After the play, we had a party with the cast. We usually earned $200 or more per play. It took a lot of work to sell out the house.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we worked as tea tasters for Celestial Seasonings Tea Company. It was a quick and easy way to earn funds. Tea tasting stopped when the company notified us that our palates no longer fit in their category for satisfactory tea tasting!
Our most profitable fundraisers in recent years have been the October potlucks where the candidates speak. Under Frances Wyrick, Ways and Means Committee Chair, and with the cooperation of generous homeowners who have opened their houses for this luncheon, along with the members who have contributed dishes, etc., we have raised substantial sums to fund important races in Boulder County.
With the money raised by the house tour of 1971, we were able to give the Democratic Party of Boulder County a gift of $1,000. Another $700 was given to Dick Gebhart for his legislative campaign. Despite our contribution, he lost his race and, unfortunately, was left with a debt of $13,000.
The County Party had requested a loan from DWBC in April of 1971. The DWBC Board approved the loan with the suggestion that if the Party could not pay us back within six months, the loan would become a gift. Ron Stewart, Chairman of the County Party, later wrote us a letter thanking us for the loan/gift.
Minutes of the Executive Board of DWBC of January 6, 1972, say that a motion was made by Yvonne Lucero, seconded by Alice Winter. The motion stated that the Women’s Club was to pay 50% of the salary, with a maximum limit of $100 per month, to a full-time qualified individual to manage the County Headquarters office. The money for the salary was to begin at once and end in November after the General Election. The motion carried.
We paid for a membership in the Century Club of 1972. When October rolled around, we gave an equal amount of money ($75.00) to these candidates: Chuck Howe, Gerry Bean, Marian McElwain, Wally Toevs, Alex Hunter, Ruth Correll, Lorena Darby, Robert Beckvold, and Jack Murphy. (Alex Hunter, District Attorney; Wally Toevs, County Commissioner; and Lorena Darby, in the 24th Senate District race, were the big winners that year.)
The County Party came to DWBC in 1974 requesting help. This time, they wanted $150 per month for the months of May through November. Once again, the money was to be used to pay the salary of an office worker. The DWBC Board proposed giving $100 a month during the period May-November and the motion carried. Dues were $2.00 a year from 1965 to 1977. Sherrie Wolff, President of DWBC in 1977, proposed to the Board that dues be raised to $5.00 a year starting in January of 1978. The proposal passed.
The Annual Report from the DWBC Treasurer in 1981 showed that we netted $1.393.44 from two Nomad Benefits, one July picnic, the candidates’ luncheon, a bake sale, and two tea tastings. There were never any records of how many hours were spent on these endeavors.
When Marion Higman gave her Treasurer’s report in October of 1984, DWBC had $3,196 to divide among the candidates. The Board voted to give $400 each to seven candidates with an additional $150 to be given to Brian Morgan, candidate for a seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents.
We held a Candidates Luncheon on September 20, 1988, where we hosted the following candidates: Ardella Mae Amador, Marc Dino, Homer Page, Michael Romero, Dorothy Rupert, David Skaggs, Ron Stewart, and Ruth White. We gave honoraria; however, how much was not stated in the accounts of that event.
An excerpt from the BWDC Newsletter of November 1980, written by Mary Liz O’Rourke, said:
Every Democrat and Independent voter in the county got a sample ballot either mailed or delivered by hand. These ballots were put out by the party but Mary Ormsbee, Party Secretary, who had been typing lists since summer, learned to use Tim Wirth’s rented printing press and printed up the ballots herself with the help of Alice Winter and Rosemary McBride. This would have cost $5,000 if done commercially but Mary Ormsbee did it for about $1,000, the cost of materials. The folding machine was run by Kay Shapley and Bev Sanders with the help of others. Countless women stuck on the labels, and the candidates put them out in the precincts.
We paid for the cost of printing extra copies of our newsletter (250) and paid the postage to mail them to the homes of all newly registered Democrats. We tried this for a period of up to three months one year, but stopped when we saw no noticeable increase in the membership of DWBC.
In addition to supporting the County Party and our candidates, we paid for newspaper ads in the Boulder Daily Camera to publicize our activities, such as the debate among the candidates for the Boulder Valley School District RE- 2 in the fall of 1997. With the approval of the Board of DWBC, we paid to have a videotape made of this debate. It was then placed in Boulder Public Library for the use of the public.
In March of 1992, Lori Fox, a student at the University of Colorado and a Democrat, came to the board to appeal for $150 to pay tuition to attend the Democratic Party’s “Colorado Institute of Leadership Training.” The DWBC Board voted to fund this request. Three years later, Lori came back to visit and to speak to us. She thanked the group for assisting her. This was a good investment. Audrey Enarson was our president at the time.
We helped the County Party again in the year 2000, when we gave them $1,000 to help print and mail the sample ballots.
In the year 2002, we had the largest amount ever to give to the candidates. $7,000 was divided among the Boulder County candidates and the candidate for the Second Congressional Seat on the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, Cindy Carlisle.
Thea Phinney and Virgeen Hedgecock led a DWBC tour in 1965 to the Colorado State Legislature in Denver. The group was shown around by Alan Dines, Democratic Speaker of the House.
Do any of you remember the Political Seminar held on January 29, 1972? Dale Tooley and Floyd Haskell were the speakers. Chuck Howe was the moderator and the panelists were David Martin, Karen Paget, Doris Banks, and Byron Johnson-all familiar names in the 1970s.
Tim Wirth was our speaker at a spaghetti supper in Louisville on January 17, 1974. In February of that year, Eleanor McGovern, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972, was our keynote speaker at another Political Seminar. DWBC paid her an honorarium of $100 and paid for half of her transportation costs.
We held a patio party on May 14, 1975 with Colorado State Treasurer Sam Brown as our speaker. That year Tim Wirth was our U.S. Representative from the Second Congressional District. Gary Hart and Floyd Haskell were our U.S. senators.
Our third Political Education Seminar was held at the Unitarian Church on February 28, 1976. Clela Rorex, our County Clerk; Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, our County Chair; and Doris Banks, National Committeewoman for Colorado spoke on “From Precinct Caucus through National Convention.” In the afternoon, Patricia Schroeder, Congresswoman from the First Congressional District, spoke of her recent trip to China. (Pat was a big hit when she wore her bunny suit for a stroll on the Great Wall.)
DWBC voted to approve the following resolution on May 26, 1976:
THE DEMOCRATIC WOMEN OF BOULDER COUNTY ENDORSE THE CONCEPTS OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT AND STRONGLY SUPPORT THE BOULDER COUNTY AND STATE ERA ORGANIZATION.
Later in the same year, we were invited to attend workshops on the proposal for a new highway to be built called 1-470. We were also encouraged to boycott lettuce.
Candidates for the Boulder City Council gave us their opinions on the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan on September 20, 1977. In November of that year, State Senator Ron Stewart and Representative Chuck Howe gave us a report on the Governor’s 1978 Legislative Call. Tim Wirth made a surprise visit and was an unscheduled speaker.
Our luncheon on January 26, 1978 was a program honoring our fellow member of the DWBC, Janet Roberts, a Boulder City Councilwoman, for all her work on City and State Boards.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) was the topic of discussion at our May 1979 meeting. The discussion featured panelists Janet Roberts, former Boulder City Council member and Chair of the Urban Renewal Program in the City; Bob Fonville, Public Affairs Director of DR COG, and Roy Howard, City Manager of Longmont. Later in the year, in December 1979, we held our monthly luncheon in Longmont. We again had a panel of three, this time speaking on “Pornography and the First Amendment.” The panelists. were District Attorney Alex Hunter, State Representative Hillsmier, and the Managing Editor of the Longmont Times Call.
Professor Conrad McBride spoke to us on October 8, 1980; he asked the question, “Picking the President-Is It Time to Change the Rules?”
Citizens in the City of Boulder in April of 1981 voted to approve BURA as the developer of the new Crossroads Shopping Center. Active on BURA Board were two members of our organization, Janet Roberts and Sally Martin. In May of 1981, three freshman Democratic state legislators, Representatives Ruth Wright, Candy Dyer, and David Skaggs, gave us the inside scoop on the ups and downs of being first-time legislators. In September, we had a visit from Dottie Lamm, first lady of Colorado. Speaking about her travels around the globe, she urged the women to “Think Globally and Act Locally.” Dottie spoke to us again in January of 1993, again with emphasis on the plight of Third World families. Her talk was entitled "More Kids, More Chaos? The Public Policy of Population."
The September 21, 1983, meeting of DWBC centered around the discussion and vote on whether to join the Jane Jefferson organization (affiliated with the National Federation of Women). Our board had met with the officers from the Denver Jane Jeffersons. They invited us to send observers when the national organization met in Denver in March. Our representatives were impressed by the enthusiasm and diversity of the JJ membership. Factors weighing against our joining the JJ were the assessment fees (so much per head) and the financial burden of supporting board meetings and seminars around the state. Members also felt that belonging to the national group would drain energy from our local activities. By a majority vote, we opted to remain independent.
Wren Wirth stopped by our April DWBC Board meeting in 1984. She gave the Board her perception of then-President Ronald Reagan and the progress her husband Tim Wirth and the Telecommunications Committee were making on the settlement of the AT&T case. The Wirths became summer residents of the Chautauqua area, giving us the opportunity in June of 1985 to have a special summer meeting with Wren. Her topic that time was "The Toll Politics Takes on the Families of Those in Congress."
We approved a resolution in support of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners’ work on the Comprehensive Plan:
WE SUPPORT THE BOULDER COUNTY COMMISSIONERS IN ADOPTING THE AMENDMENT TO THE BOULDER COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN WHICH WOULD BRING ZONING REGULATIONS AND MAPS INTO LINE WITH THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN (ADOPTED NOVEMBER 12,1985).
In October 1986, we had the five women candidates running for seats in the Legislature as our guest speakers. They were Ruth Wright, Helen Klanderud, Dorothy Rupert, Theo Hoffman, and Faye Flemming. (Faye Flemming, who received our contribution toward her campaign as well as our support, switched parties soon after the election. That caught the media’s attention, as well as ours; we were totally incensed at her duplicity!)
OUR 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION on March 17, 1987, had a special program honoring the founding members of DWBC. (We had invited all of the former presidents. We did not keep record of how many attended.) Professor Doris Havice, who first ran for the Legislature in 1962, was one of our guest speakers. In a story in the Boulder Daily Camera, she was quoted as saying we need more women in political office. She also said, “We’ve had more experience in mediating and facilitating [than men] because that’s the way you get along with your children.” Our second speaker that day was County Commissioner Ron Stewart. Based on statistics gathered since 1962, Ron gave us a mini-history of politics of the County. He said 1972 was a watershed year in which Democrats gained a number of seats and established their power base in Boulder County.
Colorado Attorney General, Duane Woodard, was our speaker on December 9, 1998. He emphasized the Republican-controlled Legislature’s slight to the public in promoting binding legislation during party caucuses.
For our Annual Meeting on March 29, 1988, we were fortunate to get Congressman David Skaggs as our speaker. David spoke on the gains and losses in the George H. W. Bush Administration. He covered the Bush policy on Central America, the Savings and Loan Crisis, our overseas direction and policy, the current budget, and the John Tower hearings. In October of that year, our Candidates Luncheon at the Higmans’ house featured these City Council candidates: Matthew Appelbaum, Linda Jourgensen, Steve Pomerance, Dianne Butterfield, Leslie Durgin, and John Spitzer. (Note: City Council races are non-partisan. We are a forum where the candidates can state their stand on the issues, but we do not give them any monetary help.)
We were stunned when Tim Wirth announced earlier that he was not interested in running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. One of our DWBC members, Josie Heath, was encouraged to run for the Senate. On February 14, 1990, the three people vying for this national office spoke for ten minutes each. They were Josie, Alamosa attorney Carlos Lucero, and former Executive Director of the Colorado State Democratic Party Buie Seawell. Kay Shapely moderated the panel.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, Charlotte Houston, was invited to Nicaragua as an impartial observer of their first free election. She reported on this trip in her talk on April 18, 1990. John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, spoke on the legal challenges facing Native American tribes. This was on November 13, 1991, and the tribes are still litigating for their rights.
On January 8, 1992, Professor Emeritus Conrad McBride of the CU Political Science Department discussed the challenges we were facing as citizens of the world. He said we might be ill-prepared for the recent “outbreak of peace,” bringing to mind the last time the . U.S. had to focus on internal affairs was during the Great Depression (from Connie Dvorkins’ article in the Boulder County Democratic Committee Newsletter, November 1992). Another highlight of ’92, on February 12, was a visit by Bea Romer, Colorado’s First Lady, who was very involved in early childhood education. She told us how important the early years are and listed the problems young families face today. In September 1999, Peggy Lamm, DWBC member, spoke on why she was running in House District 13 against “Anybody but Drew Clark.” Mr. Clark was a formidable opponent and Peggy had to run as a write-in candidate, but she won her seat to the House.
David Lane of the American Civil Liberties Union spoke to us in March of 1995, giving us his insights into issues not only affecting Colorado, but also the entire nation. His concern centered on his belief that our judicial system was becoming one of politics, not justice. In November 1995, we had a women’s Suffrage meeting with State Senator Dorothy Rupert, Eleanor Crow, and Maxine Hitchcock; they reported on the Beijing Conference on Women.
Dr. Warren Hem, a physician trained in public health and epidemiology, spoke on February 14, 1996 about the current federal government health policies and priorities and how they affected women. At the Annual Meeting on May 8, 1996, we honored JoElyn Newcomb, Janet Roberts, and Dorothy Rupert with our First Annual DWBC Woman of the Year award. The three women were recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in the community and for advancing the objectives of Democratic Women of Boulder County.
Jane Uitti, Management Analyst of the Boulder County Department of Social Services, gave us her analysis of the impacts that the new Welfare Reform Bill would have on impoverished single family households (January 8, 1997). In April of 1997, Mimi Wesson, CU Law Professor, and Dr. Michael Tracey, CU School of Journalism, gave us their views on the rights of the accused versus the sensationalism of media coverage. On December 10, Lt. Governor Gail Schoettler, our candidate for governor, gave us her background and urged Democrats to pull together. (Ms. Schoettler lost the race to Bill Owens.)
Gary Myre, president of Boulder Tomorrow, spoke on the effect the new City Council would have on the 1998 elections (February 11, 1998). Our second speaker of the day was Pat Johnson from the League of Women Voters. Pat explained Amendment #15, the Campaign Finance Reform measure that had been strongly supported by the League.
In the fall of 2001, on October 10th, we expanded our usual format for the October potluck held at JoElyn Newcomb’s home. We invited the City Council candidates from Lafayette and Louisville as well as all of the City of Boulder candidates. We also invited the school board candidates from the Boulder Valley School District RE-2. They were introduced but didn’t get to speak. They circulated and spoke to citizens individually.
One of the most hotly contested Senate races in the nation will be decided in the fall of 2002 by the Colorado electorate. DWBC members were among the first Coloradans to hear Tom Strickland, our Democratic candidate, when he spoke to us on the 10th of April. He predicted the race would be one of the most costly races ever as the Republican Administration would be stumping for his opponent, Wayne Allard.
For our opening meeting of the 2002-03 year, on September 11, we had a number of speakers. We heard the pros and cons of three initiatives to be on the November ballot. 1) Amendment #28–Mail-in Ballots: Mary Wickersham from Bighorn spoke in favor of #28, and Al Kolwicz from Citizens against Mail Ballot Reform (CAMBER) spoke against. 2) Amendment #29–Election Reform: Mary Wickersham spoke for it and Phil Perrington, a former Chair of the Democratic State Party, against. 3) Amendment #31–English Language Education: Rita Montero from English for the Children spoke for the measure; Jorge Garcia, the Literature and Language Coordinator for Boulder Valley Public School District RE-2 and a representative from English Plus, spoke against #31.
Louise Adams, Rosemary McBride, Jane Allen, Mary Margaret Meek, Kate Carter, Alberta Morris, Lonnie Codding, Dorothy Olgivy, Lois Daily, Margaret Ostrow, Millie Danielson, Joy Paulson, Alice Davis, Thea Phinney, Imogen Easton, Vicky Ruwitch, Lucille Fest, June Sampson, Helen Fischer, Ruth Scott, Claudine Garby, Saida Selby, Colleen Garby, Phyllis Shushan, Ruth Greenway, Aladeen Smith, Anne Grelle, Joyce Smith, Virginia Hammond, Dorothy Stonebraker, Meg Hansson, Dorothy Thompson, Katherine Hile, Joan Trailbush, Bea Hoffman, Sadie Walton, June Howard, Janet Weir, Norma Jacobsen, Rita Weiss, Carolyn Kieffer, Marlies West, Nancy Kraushaar, Reggie Wieder, Mary Lind, SiggaMai Williams, Pauline Lindbloom, Sue Weatherly, Dorothy London, Arlene Wolfe, Betty Lovelace, Katherine Vanderberg, Gloria Lund, Mary Maslin