Search This Blog

Sunday, May 6, 2018

WOMEN OF THE CRIPPLE CREEK MINING DISTRICT #PrairieRosePublications, @PrairieRosePub

Headframe-Cripple Creek Mining District (c) Doris McCraw
We hear a lot about what the men did in the early days of the settling of the West, and they did a great deal. However, as many of you know, I focus not only on Colorado History, but Women’s History. For this post I thought I’d share a bit about the women who made the Cripple Creek Mining District home during its start up and heyday years.

To make it a bit easier I’ve broken these women into groups for ease of understanding where they were in relation to what was happening. Ladies of the Evening, Business Women, High Society and Creative Women.

Ladies of the Evening

Probably the most well known lady of the evening was Pearl DeVere. She was the madam of The Homestead House, Cripple Creek’s most elegant and expensive ‘parlor house’. She died in 1897 of what the doctor said was an accidental morphine overdose. An anonymous donor sent $1,000 for her funeral, as she was reported to be broke. Pearl might have been forgotten to time, if the story of her funeral had not been immortalized in the book “Cripple Creek Days” by Mabel Barbee Lee.

Pearl DeVere headstone, Mt.Pisgah Cemetery (c) Doris McCraw
One Lady of the Evening that has almost been forgotten is Blanche Burton. Blanche arrived in Cripple Creek in 1891, at the beginning of the boom. She had her place of business on the main street, probably above a saloon. Blanche could be considered the first madam in the district. She ‘retired’ back to Colorado City, just to the west of Colorado Springs after leaving the district. Her last listed occupation prior to her death was seamstress.

Business Women

Of all the business women in the district, the one that fascinates me the most is Mollie O’Brien (O'Bryan). Mollie was the first women on a mining exchange in the United States. The following quote about Mollie was printed in the “Mining Investor” published in 1909, Miss Mollie O’Brien is a successful operator in mines, both in Cripple Creek and Nevada and has been very successful in financing some of the largest properties of the Cripple Creek and Goldfield. She was the secretary/treasurer of the Trilby Mines company.

Mollie O'Bryan headstone, Mt. Pisgah Cemetery (c) Doris McCraw
Dr. Catherine Polly was active in the Cripple Creek District Medical Society. By 1905 Dr. Polly and other women doctors of the Women’s Medical Society of Denver, created a polyclinic in December of that year. Dr. Polly along with Dr. Love were in charge of surgery. She was also involved with helping to set standards for public instruction in the state of Colorado. Her husband, was also a medical doctor.

High Society Women

Ethel Frizzell-Carlton, wife of Cripple Creek millionaire Albert E. Carlton. Ethel was the daughter of one of the early lawyers in Cripple Creek and caught the eye of banker, investor Albert Carlton. The two of them were some of the elite of the Cripple Creek District.

Creative Women

Julia Skolas was one of the most successful photographers in Cripple Creek. She moved to Cripple Creek in 1907 from Colorado Springs. She was known for her landscape and portraits. Her Skolas Madonna and waterfall photos are still available for viewing in various areas and online.

These are just a few of the women who were instrumental in helping the Cripple Creek mining district become the greatest gold camp in Colorado.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. I always find it fascinating that some of the women who made a big mark were the ladies of the night. Thanks for sharing, Doris!

    1. You are welcome, Kristy. The 'madams' made the choice as did a number of the women. Most to help support their families. Glad you enjoyed these bits of history. Doris

  2. These ladies, and others like them, played such an important role in opening doors for other women to follow in their non-traditional footsteps. If I wore a hat, I'd take it off to them.

    1. They really did, didn't they Kaye? I sometimes wonder how many others there may have been that we will never know about because it wasn't documented. I take my hat off to them also. Doris

  3. A fascinating insight into the way women made the best out of the little opportunity they had in every sphere.

    1. The more I learn, the more I want to know. Many of these stories I found by accident, and some just jumped out at me. I confess, I love researching these kind of stories. Doris

  4. What I like about women in history is how tough they could be. Men were not scrutinized the way women were so women had to be twice as good as an male counterpart.

    My favorites in your post were poor Pearl who must have been greatly loved by someone to get that amount of money donated for her funeral and Dr. Polly who led women in medical practice showing everyone that women are intelligent and dedicated. That reminds me, writers are intelligent and dedicated, too.

    This was a wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Sarah. It is true, women did seemed to have to do twice as much to get half the credit. It took me some time to find the story of Dr. Polly and Mollie O'Bryan. Still, it was worth the effort. I want people to remember these women and how what they did made it possible for us to do what we do.

      I agree, writers are intelligent and dedicated! Doris