Hazel Schmoll

The only child of William and Amelia Schmoll, Hazel Schmoll was born in a sod shanty near Kansas, then raised near a mining camp in Ward, Colorado. Hazel Schmoll grew up riding the high peaks and valleys of the Continental Divide amid the native wild flowers she knew and loved.

Her father opened up a livery, and from the time Hazel was able to ride her own burro, she would follow her father up the alpine slopes surrounding Ward. She learned to identify the Rocky Mountain wildflowers. With her mother Amelia, she went “walking after berries” for days at a time. In the 1890s, they could find a profusion of raspberries and scrub blueberries in hidden, moist places.

Lacking a wildflower books she always pestered visitors who might know some botany. Through eighth grade, Hazel attended Ward’s three-room school. Years later, she told a Denver Post reporter, “We didn’t have classes in art and music…and we may have missed some social amenities, but we had a college graduate for a teacher and we knew our basics.”

in 1904, Hazel started boarding in Boulder while she attended the State Preparatory School, a high school and continued to get her bachelor’s degree in botany and a teaching degree in 1913. She became the first University of Colorado graduate to land a Vassar faculty position. She also promoted the Women’s Suffrage Amendment on campus, which would give women the right to vote.

Hazel also studied in Europe with her aunt and uncle and visited Europe’s great botanists at botanic gardens in Paris, Florence, Munich, Zurich and London.

She returned to the University of Chicago to earn a PhD in Ecological Botany.

Later, as Colorado state botanist, she conducted the first systematic study of plant life in Southwestern Colorado. Her research led to the discovery of a rare locoweed variety that was named for her. As board member of the Colorado Mountain Club, Hazel was appointed chief lobbyist to pass a bill for the protection of the Colorado state flower, the lavender Columbine. In Schmoll’s later years she built Rangeview Ranch on land adjoining Rocky Mountain National Park, where she served as a nature guide well into her seventies.

A reporter who visited her in May of 1967 described her as a “gentle, cheerful woman who has reached the age when most persons long for a mild climate and soft life, but who instead tramps the hillsides for glimpses of columbines. ” Hazel died in 1990 at 99 years of age.

From “Women of Consequence” by Jeanne Varnell



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