Caroline Nichols Churchill, the “Queen Bee,” was born on December 23, 1833, in Ontario, Canada to American born parents.
In 1857 she took a teaching job in MN and became friends with a newspaper editor who was an ardent feminist and she enlisted Caroline to travel to the western states to sell ads and subscriptions and gather news. In her memoirs she tells tales of many entangled encounters with men on those trips. She was assaulted by an inn owner, thrown from a wagon by driver who had made advances, and chased out of town by a group she had poured a bucket of ice water on to quiet their loud party below. She exposed these individuals in the paper’s next edition and often argued that women could solve many of society’s problems if only given the chance.”If women could have a hand in executing the laws for their own, these shameful performances would become of rarer occurrence”CNC
She moved to Denver in 1879 and founded Denver’s earliest women’s rights newspaper, The Colorado Antelope, which was “devoted to the interests of humanity, woman’s political equality, and individuality.”Churchill’s editorials denounced female complacency. She was not one to hold her fire with her pistol or her pen and to this end, Caroline kept up a steady beat for women’s suffrage and as many of her male targets discovered, she could never be persuaded to wear kid gloves because it took too much valuable time to put them on and off.
“…Women should remember that all the evils of society are caused by the bad management of men, and women are greatly to blame for folding their hands and permitting this state of things,” The Colorado Antelope, April, 1880.
She changed the paper’s name to the Queen Bee in 1882 and single-handedly performed the duties of editor, publisher, reporter, printer, and hawker. She began publishing on a weekly basis and her quickly circulation reached 2500. “The highest circulation for any weekly between Sand Francisco and Kansas City’ she printed in her paper. Her editorials championed vocational education for girls, pensions for mothers with dependent children and of course, a woman’s right to vote. By the early 1890s, the suffrage debate was at a fever pitch in Colorado. Churchill called for a suffrage amendment to the Colorado Constitution in every issue. In November of 1893,Colorado’s male voters passed the suffrage referendum unanimously. It would be 27 more years before the ratification of the 19th amendment federally which meant that the women in Colorado mining towns now had power to shape and control those towns with their votes. The front page of the Queen Bee heralded the event with a typically enthusiastic headline:
“Western Women Wild With Joy Over the Victory in Colorado. Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy, Come to Colorado Now, This Shall Be the Land for Women!”CNC
It was the highlight of a writing career that spanned more than three decades in Colorado. But good times were coming to an end as a nationwide Panic began in May of 1893. Silver had been devalued in 1873 and mines had been closed. The railroads built to carry gold and silver ore from the mountains were now collapsing, taking many banks with them. Caroline was forced to quit publishing weekly but continued to put out her paper intermittently and before she died in 1926 at the age of 92, she wrote her memoirs: Active Footsteps. Churchill had lived and worked for suffrage her entire life and was immodest in printing “It is not at all likely that another woman on the continent could, under the same conditions, accomplish as much”CNC
T Lee’s thoughts on designing a collection for Caroline Nichols Churchill:
‘The Queen Bee was not a woman that would earn much popularity among men or women, those that speak the truth often suffer that fate, but she changed things for women in Colorado. Without her opinionated publication that helped to convince the men of Colorado to allow women the right to vote (27 years sooner than most of the rest of us) its my opinion that more mining towns would not have survived. When miners in Colorado left mining towns overnight to follow the ‘gold’ that had been found elsewhere, I believe that since women had the power of the vote, they could better manage the fledgling towns that were forming. Towns with school children, merchants and elderly. This is my own opinion based on stories I’ve collected of other gold rush era towns that literally disappeared overnight when mines were played out. Her collection is based on her chosen nickname that she aptly earned.’T Lee, December 2016