Theodosia Grace Ammons
Theodosia Grace Ammons
Date of Birth
Born 1861 Died 1907
Theodosia Grace Ammons was a powerful first-wave feminist and nationally prominent leader in an emerging academic discipline designed to dignify and empower women. While defying conventions and challenging gender norms, Ammons homesteaded her own government-granted land, created an acclaimed academic department within Colorado’s land-grant college, became the first female dean at that college, advanced teacher education within the Chautauqua movement, and designed and built a structure that stands today as tribute to her success in lessening the domestic burdens of women of the early 20th Century.
In 1871, Baptist minister and schoolteacher Jehu Richard Ammons and his wife, Margaret Caroline Brendle Ammons, moved their family from North Carolina to Colorado when their daughter Theodosia was nine. Theodosia lived the rest of her life in Colorado, graduating in 1883 from the original site of Denver’s East High School.
Ammons forged a friendship with Eliza Routt, Colorado Governor John Routt’s wife, around mutual passions for education and women’s rights. Routt was the first woman to serve on the Colorado State Board of Agriculture, the governing body of the Colorado Agricultural College, now Colorado State University (CSU). In her role as head of the board committee to establish the Department of Domestic Economy at the college, Routt hired Ammons as the first instructor. The two are credited with co-founding the department in 1895 and renovating a building to include the Hall of Household Arts. Leading the way in a developing field that applied scientific principles and technological discoveries to women’s work in the home, Ammons built a solid foundation for the Department of Domestic Economy, quickly achieved full faculty status, and eventually became Dean of the Women’s Work Department. She changed the name to the Department of Domestic Science to better reflect the importance of science to the discipline. Even though Ammons never received an advanced degree, she holds the dual distinction of being the first full faculty member of the department and the first female dean of any department at the college.
During summers, Ammons resided at Boulder’s Texas-Colorado Chautauqua (now the Colorado Chautauqua) where she was recruited to be Director of the School of Domestic Science soon after the institution’s founding in 1898. Using her creativity and academic knowledge, Ammons designed and built a model summer home in 1899, one of the first permanent cottages on the grounds. She taught continuing education classes and demonstrated her inventions in best practices for health and domestic efficiency in the cottage.
An activist of the Progressive Era, Ammons, a member of several women’s clubs, earned a leadership role in the suffrage movement as an elected officer of the Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association of Colorado. She attended the 1902 National American Women Suffrage Association Convention (NAWSA) in Washington, D.C. as Colorado’s representative and spoke at a women’s suffrage hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Somehow in addition to these activities, Ammons found time to homestead land with two of her sisters, each applying for and proving up on their own individual parcel. The land was in Douglas County near their family ranch and is now recognized as an historic property by the Douglas County Landmarks program. As was typical throughout her life, Ammons broke barriers with her independent acquisition of knowledge, professional achievements, activism, and leadership.