Knock back a few beers and soak up stories of the women of the West, both historically factual accounts and some improbably tall tales, at “Ladies of the Wild West: The Good, the Bad and the Lovely,” on Thursday, July 10, at the Blue Spruce Inn in Frisco.
Tom “Dr. Colorado” Noel, professor of history at the University of Colorado-Denver, Channel 9 TV personality and Denver Post columnist, will lead the informal talk, where having a drink will be encouraged to inspire audience give and take.
“We’re going to focus on women, good and bad, and how they’ve kind of been written out of history before and how much they’ve done for the state, even in mining towns,” Noel said.
Noel has written 42 books on Colorado history, ranging from historic guidebooks to a souvenir history of Red Rocks, and will be joined in Frisco by Hugh Bingham, who will be portraying Mark Twain.
“He’s going to talk about Mark Twain’s interview with Eve, as in the Garden of Eden,” Noel said, referencing Twain’s short story “Eve’s Diary,” “and Twain’s other comments on women, all the way from Brigham Young’s 27 wives to the maidens of Kauai.”
Ways of women
Each year, Noel comes up with a new topic to present in Frisco.
“This is the first time we’ve ever tackled women, so it’s a brand-new presentation,” he said, adding that women have been largely lost in the historic record. “I think it’s underappreciated. You think of the West and John Wayne and it’s an all-male cast out here doing the pioneering; it’s often forgotten. I play up the women as making life civilized. They tamed the frontier with churches and libraries and schools. They arrive in a place, and they push for educational, religious, cultural activities.”
Noel said he’s found that when history was recorded, it was often women who did the writing, people such as Isabella Bird who came through in the 1870s and wrote a very perceptive, very critical look at Colorado, “A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.”
“She was an English woman and she gives a very candid look at Colorado, how mining blights the landscape and blights men’s souls, makes them money grubbers and gold grubbers,” Noel said. “It’s a classic book.”
The presentation will also discuss the ladies of the evening, such as Mattie Silks and Jenny Rogers, who would entertain the miners in Denver when they came down out of the mountains, Noel said, and the important role women now play as museum curators and historians.
“People like your wonderful Simone up there who push history and a sense of place, what makes Frisco and Colorado special,” Noel said, referring to Simone Belz, director of the Frisco Historic Park & Museum. “I’m looking forward to showing pictures of Simone Belz on her motor scooter and talking about how women today do so much for museums.”
Belz responded to Noel’s comment with a laugh. “He’s got an old picture of me on my scooter from wherever, from years and years ago,” she said, adding that Noel’s comedic approach to the topic is fitting for the casual event. “It’s just in the bar area of the Blue Spruce. They do a slideshow presentation and a bit of tongue in cheek of history, history with a twist.”