Morley Ballantine was a prominent, long-time Colorado newspaper editor-publisher. Through her writing, social and community activism, philanthropy, and dedication to her region, she furthered women’s rights and equality while also advancing education and culture in Southwest Colorado.
Elizabeth Morley Cowles was born to the Cowles newspaper publishing family. She attended Smith College, Stanford University, and University of Minnesota; received a Bachelor of Arts at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, in 1975; and ultimately was the first woman to receive an honorary degree (doctorate) there in 2004. She and her second husband, reporter Arthur A. Ballantine, had moved there and, in 1952, purchased the Durango News and The Herald Democrat, combining them into the Durango Herald in 1960. Ballantine served as a principled editor and writer, winning many journalism awards for her work, and took over the leadership of the paper after her husband’s death. She became chairman of the board and was named the first woman chair of the Colorado Associated Press Association in 1968.
By 1957, the Ballantines had established the Ballantine Family Fund to support nonprofit causes to “better the human condition.” Through the fund, with Morley at its helm as president, the Ballantine Fund promoted Fort Lewis College’s development from a rural campus and two-year agricultural and mechanical college to the prestigious four-year college that is central to Colorado’s Southwest. They established its Center of Southwest Studies and helped launch the Durango Arts Center, while also supporting educational institutions throughout the state, such as Fountain Valley School and the University of Denver.
Through her philanthropy and principled editorial positions, Ballantine campaigned for women’s equality issues such as equal pay for equal work, protection from workplace harassment, and the right to choose. She was a primary supporter of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood’s Durango Clinic, receiving the Margaret Sanger Award in 2004. She was a founding member of the Women’s Resource Center in Durango and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. She was active in the League of Women Voters for 54 years.