The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, the Frisco Historic Park & Museum and the Summit Historical Society will celebrate Women’s History Month on Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8. Women’s History Month has its origins as a national celebration in 1981, when Congress passed a law authorizing and requesting the president to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as “Women’s History Week.” The tradition has continued throughout the years and has expanded to a month-long celebration of women’s history.
“It would seem self-evident that it required the strength and courage of both men and women to make history and settle the West,” said Simone Belz, museum director at the Frisco Historic Park & Museum, in a news release. “But women’s contributions have often gone unnoticed and unacknowledged, so this celebration of women’s history serves to shed light on aspects of our history which have often resided in obscurity.”
Anna Sadler Hamilton
On Friday, March 7, from 5 to 7 p.m., the Frisco Historic Park & Museum in collaboration with the Summit Historical Society will present “Hats off to Women,” a unique and entertaining evening of women’s history and hats. Dr. Sandra Mather, local author and historian, will portray Summit County pioneer Anna Sadler Hamilton accompanied by a slide show.
“Anna Sadler Hamilton came from Grundy County, Illinois,” Mather said. “She taught school there — loved it, loved teaching, being with the kids — but she promised to marry Robert Hamilton, who owned the Hamilton Meat Market on Main Street in Breckenridge. So that meant she had to leave her family and came out here with Rob.”
The couple was married Feb. 11, 1885, Mather said, and arrived in Breckenridge, where the newspaper editor greeted them at the train station.
“The next day in the newspaper, he wrote, ‘Mr. Robert Hamilton has returned from a trip east, where he took unto himself a rib,’” Mather said, quoting the newspaperman’s biblical reference to Adam and Eve.
Anna interacted easily with the other women in town, though she was only 23 and they were older, a difference she often felt and relayed in her diary. She also described in her diary her struggles with cooking at altitude and her distaste for her husband spending time in saloons, Mather said.
In addition to exploring the life of Anna Sadler Hamilton, the evening of history will bring to light the women who changed Frisco’s history and will feature Frisco women such as Susan Badger, Jane Thomas, Susie Thompson and Helen Foote. Guests are invited to wear their favorite hats to this event. “Hats Off to Women” will be at the Frisco School House Museum, located at 120 Main St. The event is free, and light refreshments donated by The Lost Cajun Restaurant will be served.
On, Saturday, March 8, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and the Summit Historical Society will be celebrating Women’s History Month and Katie Briggle with a stroll through Breckenridge’s historic streets and an afternoon tea. The walking tour will include the legends, lore and tales that will bring Breckenridge’s past to life.
“It is especially powerful to reflect back on how women have shaped High Country life,” said Cindy Hintgen, operations manager at the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, in a news release. “It was not an easy place to settle, and women like Katie Briggle struggled not only to survive, but also to carve out a new role for women.”
Mather said the Summit Historical Society began researching the Briggle family when it acquired the Briggle House in Breckenridge. William H. Briggle was twice mayor of the town and was a county commissioner at the time of his death in 1924.
“When he arrived in 1886, he owned a book and stationery story on Main Street, but his sister, Gertrude, married George Engle, of Engle Bros. Exchange Bank, and he became a teller at his brother in law’s bank,” Mather said. “So he was very prominent in society and so was Katie.”
Katie Briggle came to the area in 1893 from Canada to visit her sister and met William. They married in 1896 in Ontario and returned to Breckenridge to live.
“So where Anna was not socially prominent like Katie, Katie was very prominent because of her husband,” Mather said. “She was a music teacher, she gave piano lessons, she gave recitals — she was a very accomplished musician.”
Being Canadian, she was also familiar with British tea etiquette, which is why the tour will be followed by tea at the Victorian Briggle House, where Katie Briggle will serve tea and baked goods and teach guests about the rules expected even at a tea ceremony held in the Wild West. Mather will portray Briggle. Reservations are required, and tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 4 to 12.
Early women in Summit
Mather said it’s important to educate people about the role women played in the settling of Summit County.
“When the women start arriving, that’s when you had schools, churches, libraries, hospitals, social clubs — they brought the refinement; they brought the Victorian era to a very rough and ready male environment,” she said. “They were the ones that drew the men from the saloons. The saloons were everything to the men because they didn’t have anything to go home to.”
You could eat, sleep, drink, attend church or a funeral, vote or even receive medical attention in a saloon, Mather said, and it was the source of most companionship before women started arriving in the area to join their miner and merchant husbands.
“But once the women came, then you had all the other things,” she said. “And they wanted their husbands home instead of in the saloons.”
The Frisco Historic Park & Museum contributed to this article.