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History of Colorado Women's College

Historical Timeline from the founding of Colorado Woman's College to the closing of Colorado Women's College at DU

1886 - Reverend Dr. Robert Cameron conceived the idea of forming a school for Higher Education of Women, a “Western Vassar,” under the auspices of the Baptist Denomination of Colorado.


1888 - Colorado Woman’s College Society incorporated November 14.


1890 - Cornerstone of first college building (Treat Hall) laid. 


1893 - Financial difficulties forced the building to be boarded up to keep out the weather, small animals and birds. 


1902 - Baptist Women’s Auxiliary organized. Over the years this group was indispensable for its continued support of the college. They were ingenious in concocting novel ideas to raise money so furnishings could be purchased. Much of the materials and most of the labor was contributed to create table cloths, pillow cases and even dust cloths. Bronze doorplates on many rooms in the south wing of Treat Hall recognized the churches, Sunday school classes and other groups that furnished the room. 


1907 - Jay Porter Treat, Superintendent of Schools, Trinidad, Colorado, pledged to throw his whole life and soul into the enterprise if he were chosen to be the first president of CWC.


1909 - Colorado Woman’s College opened September 7 with 59 students by the end of the first year. Annual tuition was $30 for the preparatory students and $40 for the college department. Room and board was $25 per month. The Preparatory Department, for ninth grade and above, was offered to women not ready to do work on the college level. This program lasted until the mid-1930s.


1909 - Academic curriculum grouped into four departments, Liberal Arts (general culture), Fine Arts (Music, Painting, Home Decoration, History and Interpretation of Art), Higher Home Arts (Psychology, Fundamentals of Child Life, Rational Living) and Lower Home Arts (Domestic Science and Efficiency). Mrs. Treat was in charge of the department of social and religious life at a salary of $25 per school month. 


1910 - Students enjoyed fudge parties, valiantly contested croquet matches, and a Mandolin and Guitar club. 


1910 - The first yearbook, “The Odaroloc” (Colorado in reverse), was laboriously handwritten to preserve the events during that first year. 


1913 - First class graduated with six students. Four students received a BA degree and two received a BS degree.


1916 - The northern portion of Administration (Treat) Hall (facing west) was added. It was made of brick and terra cotta with dual towers and beautiful spires. 


1917 - President Treat resigned to allow for a “financial president.”


1920s - Students practiced the “Charleston” in the dorm rooms in Treat Hall. Staff rushed upstairs to tell them to stop because they were making too much noise. 


1920 - Due to lack of students doing any work above second-year college level and other financial reasons, the academic program was restricted to two years. 


1925 - First student handbook prepared. It provided for an Honor Court to decide all matters of discipline. Only students with a grade of B or above could have “social freedom” on Friday night. A point system was set up for infractions like using a typewriter, ukulele or phonograph during quiet hours, taking a bath after 10:30 p.m. or before 6:30 a.m. or talking on the telephone more than five minutes. The handbook also listed more than twenty “Wise Words,” for example, “If there is no bright side, polish up the dark one,” and “He who walks with God must keep on moving.”

1926 - Trustee Fred W. Freeman offered a gift of a twenty-acre camp in the mountains at Shaffer’s Crossing. As students enjoyed the get-away year after year it was necessary to post a sign near the toilets that read, “agitate briskly.”


1929 - Foote Hall opened. The dormitory housed 126 students and included the new dining room. 


1930 - Treat Hall officially named “in honor of former President Treat and as a memorial to his unflagging devotion and tireless efforts in behalf of the College during its earlier days.”


1930 - First Hanging of the Greens organized by music faculty member Helen Shotwell Bernard. This is the longest running CWC tradition. 


1930 - Olan Coates began career as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds and was the longest-tenured employee. 


1932 - Class of 1932 gave sundial to be placed in front of Foote Hall. It is now on the grounds of The Women’s College of the University of Denver. 


1934 - Contest held to change the name of Colo-Wo-Co, the college newspaper. The winner, who suggested The Western Graphic, received a $3.00 prize. The Western Graphic was deemed “the Best Illustrated College Newspaper in America.”


1937 - President Huchingson, “Prexy,” stressed personality training and explained, “Physical appearance, posture, athletic grace, manners, conduct, attitudes, charm, beauty, dress, spiritual ideals all come from within as manifestations of genuine personality...” A “Social Fundamentals” program was required that included a personality clinic with a recording studio so each girl could hear her own voice, a motion picture so that she could see herself walk, talk, sit and stand and equipment for demonstrating hair shampooing, hair styles and skin care. 


1939 - Laura W. Porter Hall opens. The college enrollment hits an all time high of 358. 


1940s - The dress code asked students to dress for dinner including stockings. Hair curlers were not permitted. Shorts were permitted only on the tennis courts or near campus grounds. 

1940 - Mr. and Mrs. William Porter present the college with a seven-passenger Cadillac dubbed “Leaping Lena.”


1943 - Students helped support the war effort by collapsing large tin containers from the kitchen to be used again for scrap metal. Victory gardens were planted along Quebec Street. 


1945 - All the outstanding capital debts were paid in full. The first time the college had been debt free. 


1947 - Dora Porter Mason Hall completed. It contained a 700-seat dining room, a lounge and reception rooms, four small dining rooms, the kitchen and bakery. The building also included a swimming pool and gymnasium along with staff offices. The old kitchen and dining room in Foote Hall were converted into the Library. 


1947 - Rev. David T. Pulliam Memorial Hall opened. The dormitory housed 112 students. 


Late 1940s - Male guests were scrutinized. They were to be between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three and of equal educational and social background as the girls. When dating CWC girls, men were to avoid questionable places such as taverns and night clubs. 


Early 1950s - Students enjoyed going to the Stock Show and seeing the then heart-throb, Casey Tibbs ride. There is a larger than life bronze statue of the legendary Casey Tibbs astride the famed saddle bronc, “Necktie,” at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. 


1950s - Men stationed at nearby Lowry Air Force Base attended Friday-night dances. But some women recalling the Friday night mixers claimed they never could seem to find someone. The opening of the Air Force Academy in the late 1950s offered another option for dates! 


1950s - The faculty remembers President Val Wilson’s interest in everything going on. He frequently visited classes and assisted the students including helping to identify a rudimentary oviduct in a frog dissection class. 


1956 - Curtis Hall opened. 


1956 - Sharon Kay Ritchie, who attended CWC her freshman year, crowned “Miss America.”


1957 - Huchingson Memorial Hall opened to house the science and home economic classes. 


1959 - After forty years, CWC begins transition back to a four-year college. 


1961 - Mrs. Helen C. Rippey presented her mountain home, Rancho Tranquillo, to CWC. 


1962 - Whatley Chapel opened to replace the chapel in Treat. The building includes the main sanctuary with a 3000-pipe organ, meditation chapel, lounge and classrooms. The stained glass windows were designed by renowned artist, Gabriel Loire. The outdoor amphitheater seats 1200 and was the site of many graduations and large gatherings. The Charles S. Hill Memorial Carillon, adjacent to the chapel, is one of only two authentic carillons in Colorado.


1962 - June Dunton Hall opened. The dormitory housed 180 students. 


1963 - Permelia Curtis Porter Library built; students formed “bucket brigade” to pass 30,000 books from Foote Hall to the new library. 


Mid-1960s - Considered the heyday of CWC, student enrollment swelled to over 1100. Foreign Study Programs opened in Vienna, Austria; Madrid, Spain; and Geneva, Switzerland. Eventually centers in Taipei and Gifu, Japan, were also opened. 


1965 - Edward Vaughan Dunklee Memorial Hall opened. The dormitory housed 190 students. 


1967 - CWC renamed Temple Buell College. Temple Hoyne Buell pledged a gift in trust which would provide an eventual endowment of more than $25M. The trust agreement did not provide for any cash for the college. 


1968 - The W. Dale and W. Ida Houston Fine Arts Center completed. It had two theaters, a music hall, dance studio, art studios, music practice rooms, an art gallery and faculty offices.


1969 - Dress code, requiring blouses, skirts and sweaters with anklets and saddle oxfords or loafers, was repealed. Student handbook said students should remember “she is a woman and to dress herself accordingly.”


Early 1970s - Male visitors had to be signed in and were allowed to visit in the dorm rooms as long as the door was open. 


1970 - The previous two years had been fraught with financial frustration caused by a continued downward trend in enrollment, falling off of gift income, creeping inflation and an unbalanced budget, and an increasing number of dissidents who were disenchanted with the name change.


1970s - The chaotic events affecting the nation in the late 1960s, including war and social change, continued in the 1970s and were reflected on campus. Major trends included a growing disillusionment with government, advances in civil rights, increased influence of the women’s movement. On campus, students and faculty alike took part in rallies and protests of the Vietnam War. They staged a week-long strike followed by debates on whether the students should be given class credit. 


Also, non-traditional clothing became the rage, including bellbottom pants, hip huggers, colorful patches, hot pants, platform shoes, earth shoes, clogs, T-shirts, and gypsy dresses. Knits and denims were the fabrics of choice. No longer were students required to “dress” for Sunday dinner. 


1972 - Re-engagement program began. The slogan was “We came back.” This program transitioned to what is now The Women’s College of the University of Denver. 


1972 - At the board of trustees meeting the chairman reminded the trustees what most of them already believed: “most people...think that this college is well endowed since at the time the Buell gift was given, widespread national publicity reported the gift to be $25M. Many potential donors and foundations feel the college does not need money.” The “eventuality” of the gift caused serious problems for day-to-day cash flow. No funds would be available to the college until Mr. Buell’s death.


1973 - CWC graduate, Rebecca Ann King crowned “Miss America.”


1973 - School renamed Colorado Women’s College - Board of trustees decided to give up the Buell endowment. Board voted to revise the use of “woman” in the name to “women” to emphasize the purpose of CWC - to educate many women.


1973 - Editorials in The Western Graphic became “more vehement as the students began to demand determination of their own hours, extension of visitation hours, abolition of restrictive regulations and participation in the formulation of college policy.”

1976 - Board of trustees declined a proposed affiliation with the University of Denver. Cash flow situation continued to deteriorate. By November, vendors’ invoices could not be paid, and trustees feared that by December, payroll could not be met. Total debt was $6.3 million.


1976 - Christmas day, the Denver Post announced the closure of the college. Several days later, mailgrams were sent to students informing them of the closure and asking them to remove their belongings by January 3rd. Students scrambled to transfer to other schools during the Christmas break. On January 3rd, returning students attended an historic “final assembly” at the Houston Fine Arts Center. During the proceedings, Mary C. Crowley of Dallas, Texas, presented a check for $100,000 to President Marjorie Bell Chambers. Other donations and pledges added up to $500,000. After the rally, the board reaffirmed its belief in a women’s college and the work done by CWC educating women and voted to continue operations indefinitely. However, the students that had already transferred, did not return to CWC and the student body was greatly reduced, forcing the closure of all but three residence halls.


1980s - The school’s decline continued despite reorganization of academic programs, aggressive recruitment, fundraising and money-saving budget cuts.


1981 - In the fall, enrollment stood at 304 students, 200 of whom were Weekend College students. Treat Hall was closed to save energy and money. Administrative and faculty offices were moved to Foote Hall.


1982 - Board of trustees reached a burdensome decision to accept a merger proposal offered by the University of Denver. DU agreed to accept all Colorado Women’s College assets and liabilities. CWC students would be accepted at DU to complete their studies. DU agreed “to establish on its main campus programs for women which would carry forward Colorado Women’s College within a reorganized format.”


2000 - Johnson & Wales University at Denver opened on the former CWC campus. The students have been eager to learn about the history of their campus, and with the help of CWC alumnae, have adopted some of the traditions, including the Hanging of the Greens.


2004 - The Women’s College of the University of Denver - The CWC legacy of educating women continued in The Women’s College of the University of Denver. The new home of The Women’s College, the Merle Catherine Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women, was opened in September. The treasured CWC arch and sundial were permanently installed at the Chambers Center.

2013 - Colorado Women's College of the University of Denver - The Women's College of the University of Denver changed to Colorado Women's College of the University of Denver. The school offered their own curriculum and degree program.

2015 - Colorado Women's College of the University of Denver is closed. The Colorado Women's College "Scholars Program" is initiated for traditional DU students. 

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