Friday, June 15, 2012

San Luis Women's Colony

San Luis Valley, Colorado
San Luis Women's Colony

Location: San Luis Valley, Colorado, USA

Opened/Closed: Plea to establish women's colony published November 6, 1885

As I dig around in the archives, it becomes more and more apparent that the idea of womyn's land is not something unique to the second wave of the women's movement. On the contrary, it is an idea with very old and extensive roots.

I can find no evidence (thus far) that the San Luis Women's Colony ever got past the dreaming stage. But the idea is still provocative, even as Olive Wright struggled with the social and economic class differences between women. Notice that problem of boundary enforcement was also not well thought out--a problem which has long plagued the creation and maintenance of womyn's space.

From the New York Times, November 6, 1885:



From the Denver (Col.) Tribune.

Mrs. Olive Wright, of Denver, says that there is to be a women's colony in Colorado, and talks in this way about it: "In the first place, there are a great many Eastern women who have capital to invest and who desire to put it into something that will benefit women. They can't do anything like that in Eastern towns, because popular prejudice is against it. Getting out here will grant them room and liberty; they can do what they like, and I think they will like to do considerable. I have the authority of several gifted and wealthy women in Boston and New-York on this question. I know whereof I speak."

"Where do you propose locating this colony?"

"In the beautiful, smiling valley of the San Luis. That is where I want to pitch a tent, the work in which shall redound to the honor and glory of women. Rich women will build up the colony, and poor women will come here and establish industries by which to support themselves. They will likely engage in bee culture, silk culture, the raising of small fruits, the raising of domestic animals, the manufacturing of preserves and jellies, and various other similar industries."

Somebody asked her the other day if men were to be excluded from the women's colony in the San Luis Valley. She replied that that was the queerest question ever put to her; said she didn't think barbed wire fences would have any effect in keeping them out of the colony, and she had no idea of keeping a dozen sturdy Amazons on watch, as the fair ladies did in "The Princess." It is understood there will be plenty of men on hand in the immediate vicinity of the sunny San Luis about the time the famous colony is started. This rather knocks the poetry out the scheme, but its practical advantages may thus be enhanced. Men won't have any glory down there anyway; they will have to resign themselves to being overshadowed from the beginning. They will do nicely to fill in the background, and may sometimes be intrusted [sic] with the duties of understewards. As for figuring extensively, their sex is against them, and they will be kept down.

It appears that Mrs. Olive Wright was a prosperous Colorado cattle rancher, newspaper columnist, and suffragist who made at least two attempts to start a women's colony in Colorado. In her book Three Visits to America, Emily Faithfull provides a vivid description of Olive Wright in 1884.


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