Learn the Stories of Four Pioneering Colorado Women

Capturing the social, racial and gender dynamics of a defining era in American history (1870-1970), 'Pioneers' (85 min) tells the stories of four Colorado women artists who courageously confronted social stigma and prejudice in their pursuit of equal opportunity and artistic expression. Helen Henderson Chain, Jean Wirt Sherwood, Muriel Sibell Wolle, and Eve Drewelowe - their stories exemplify the important influence that women have had on culture and society across the American West. Acting with intrepidity and spirits of benevolence, these women serve as role models for those who champion social progress and value artistic expression today.


The stories of inspirational and influential women are all too often left untold. Pioneers is part of an important effort to reconstruct women’s history and celebrate the contributions women have made to culture and society. The women of Pioneers serve as models for how to live rich and creatively rewarding lives in the face of prohibitive social restrictions and discrimination. Through their actions, large and small, they made dramatic differences in the quality of life and accessibility to opportunities for themselves and others. They stood up to misogyny, racism, and classicism. They promoted greater accessibility to arts education. They championed the local identity while celebrating foreign culture. They tirelessly pursued their creative passions. These women are representative of so many other influential women of the American West, whose stories have yet to be told.


Unfortunately, we still face many of the social, political and environmental challenges of those days. In the art world, works by women and minority groups are still appallingly underrepresented. The environmental degradation that Eve Drewelowe bemoaned in the 1970s has become ever more critical. Immigrants and other members of our communities still face discrimination, intimidation and violence. The women of Pioneers did not passively stand by. Witnessing flagrant discrimination against immigrant communities, Helen Henderson Chain set up a school to teach them English, and Jean Wirt Sherwood, volunteered her time at Jane Addams’ Hull House, to teach art and arts appreciation. At a time when it was unacceptable for a woman to go to a restaurant unaccompanied, Jean Wirt Sherwood set up safe spaces for Chicago working women to eat lunch, form a community, and enjoy reproductions of art. Just as Muriel Sibell Wolle stood up against racist policies and conventions of her day (at a time when the KKK burned crosses in the center of town), so must we all support one another and interrupt systemic institutional racism. There is still much work to be done. Each time I watch this film, I feel newly invigorated to strive for improving my community and pursuing my interests. I believe that you will likewise feel inspired.


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