Eliza Routt was a pioneer in the struggle for women’s rights. As wife of John Routt, Colorado’s first State Governor, she became Colorado’s first First Lady. Routt joined the Non-Partisan Suffrage Association of Colorado and served as president of the City League of Denver branch. After women’s suffrage passed in Colorado in 1893 and in honor of her tireless work, Routt became the first woman registered to vote in the Centennial State. She set the standard for Colorado’s first ladies and the state’s newly enfranchised women by performing community and public service without fanfare or pretense.
The Routts arrived in Colorado in 1875 and ushered Colorado into statehood in 1876. While John Routt served in state and city government, Eliza was an activist who helped settle and build a civilized community in the early days of Denver and the fledgling state. As a member of the Ladies Relief Society, Routt helped establish the Old Ladies Home and was instrumental in obtaining a building for the Women’s Home Club (which became the YWCA). This building provided a safe residence for young women. She was a co-founder of and donor to the Denver Orphans Home Association in 1881.
Routt served on the first Board of Trustees for Colorado Women’s College. She was the first woman to serve on the Colorado State Board of Agriculture, the governing body of Colorado State Agricultural College, which became Colorado State University. During her decade on the board, Routt started the School of Domestic Economy, giving women wide access to higher education, and she obtained the first professorship for a female instructor. She helped acquire the Guggenheim Building for the school, a feat commemorated in a stained glass window honoring her. Another building on the campus is named after Colorado’s first First Lady.
Eliza Routt promoted public art and culture in early Denver through organizations like the Ladies Loan Exhibition and the Denver Fortnightly Club. She helped procure “The Closing Era Statue,” which was introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. After the Fair, it was installed on the east lawn of the Colorado State Capitol, where it stands today.