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A Commitment to Social Justice

31 Jul


In this new entry to our MROHP Shorts video playlist on YouTube, Josie Heath–former Boulder County Commissioner and current President of the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County–talks about the roots of her commitment to social justice, a commitment that became a life-long passion.

Hear stories about her experience of working in the fields alongside Latino farm workers in the 1940s at the age of ten–and of later being able to sign eight million dollars worth of checks as a county commissioner but not being able to open a bank account without her husband’s signature in the 1980s–among other stories illustrative of how she came to be committed to social welfare and women’s rights.

This interview was recorded for the Boulder County Latino History Project, undertaken in collaboration with our oral history program. The interviewer is Linda Arroyo-Holstrom, and the videographer is Irle Hernandez.The whole interview can be found here.

See also the MROHP Special Collection of interviews with members of the Boulder County Latino community here, which was funded in part by the Community Foundation Serving Boulder County.

First, you’ve got to be able to count

22 Mar

Uh-oh! Due to technical problems, the library’s oral history site may be down for as much as two months.  In the meantime, we will post more interviews to the library’s YouTube channel–some full interviews and some excerpts–to keep you connected to oral histories.

Today’s post: a full interview with Jean Dubofsky about her career as a lawyer and a judge, including being the youngest and first woman to serve on the Colorado Supreme Court.

She also talks about her successful argument to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Amendment 2, the 1992 Colorado amendment that prohibited the passage of laws that provided protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Hear the advice she got from John Roberts (now chief justice of the Supreme Court) about being successful when arguing in front of the court: “First you’ve got to be able to count.”  

Watch a little of the interview or watch it all at to find out what Justice Roberts meant and whether it was good advice!

If you are not able to watch the interview above, click on this link:

On the week that Gov. Hickenlooper signed the civil unions bill, we thought this interview would bring a greater depth of understanding to the history of gay civil rights issues in Colorado.

Women in the Backcountry

13 Apr

On April 26 at 7:00 p.m., the Boulder Public Library’s Carnegie Branch Library for Local History will sponsor “One Hundred Years Up High,” talks and a slide show about the history of the Colorado Mountain Club and a celebration of Colorado’s magnificent mountains. The evening will feature Janet Robertson, Walter N. Borneman, James E. Fell Jr., Christopher J. Case, and David Hite. Seating is limited, so if you are interested in attending you must call to reserve a seat: 303-441-3110. Here is a brief clip from Janet Robertson’s oral history interview in which she talks about changes in how women experience the backcountry:

If you have a favorite Colorado mountain that you have climbed or have a story about the Colorado Mountain Club, leave us a comment!

We Didn’t Know Anything About It

20 Jan

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, we made copies of one of our earlier oral histories for the daughter and granddaughters of Elizabeth (Beth) Pesman. Mrs. Pesman’s daughter had written to us saying, “We had tried for years to get my mother to tell her stories on our audio-tape machine, but she didn’t have any use for “technology,” so we were delighted when a  friend told us she had found this in the library, since we didn’t know anything about it.”

Mrs. Pesman’s story is one well worth hearing. Interviewed by Dorothy Hale in 1986, when she was just short of 93 years old, Mrs. Pesman’s voice was still strong and her memories clear. Her account begins like this:

“I was born on January 31, 1893. My mother died when I was four  years old…. She brought up three stepchildren and then seven of her own, of which I was the tail-end. She died of typhoid fever, or heart trouble—or of raising a big family or something…. After a year, my father married again.”

Mrs. Pesman attended CU-Boulder beginning in 1910, trained as a teacher, and taught in the Wellington Lake School, where she was teacher to nine pupils in seven grades.  She was teaching at the time of the 1913 blizzard, which she describes. Some years later, she married M. Walter Pesman, who became a renowned landscape architect in Denver and was one of the founders of the Botanic Gardens. Much to Mrs. Pesman’s dismay, she was refused a teaching job in 1927 because many schools would not hire a married woman. Although she finally was able to obtain another teaching job, during The Depression the Colorado State Legislature considered passing a law not allowing married women to teach anywhere in the state. Mrs. Pesman lobbied the legislature not to pass the bill and was pleased that the lawmakers were “wise enough” not to let it become law.

Mrs. Pesman died in 1987, only one year after this interview was recorded. The end of this month marks the 119th anniversary of Beth Pesman’s birth. We are so glad that her story lives on in our oral history collection—both for her family and for the rest of us.

You can hear Beth Pesman’s interview here.

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