DENVER – Last spring, Rochelle Mann attended a reception in Durango for the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and noticed something was missing.
She saw a lack of inductees from the Western Slope.
“I was standing next to Debra Parmenter, and we looked at each other and both said at the same time: ‘Morley,’” Mann said.
The omission that Mann and Parmenter spotted was corrected Thursday night, when Morley Cowles Ballantine, the longtime chairman and editor of The Durango Herald, was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, taking a place alongside pioneers, artists, judges and diplomats who have shaped the state.
Among the 10 inductees this year are U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello and entrepreneur Kristina Johnson, an internationally known expert on crystal display technology used in high-definition television and 3-D movies.
“This is such an honor for her, coming from such an isolated part of the state, and it shows how her influence grew throughout her life to encompass the whole state,” said her daughter, Helen Ballantine Healy, who accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.
Morley Ballantine died Oct. 10, 2009, at 84.
Ballantine and her husband, Arthur, bought the Durango News and the Durango Herald-Democrat in 1952. She took over as publisher of the Herald when Arthur died in 1975.
“Maybe a lot of people didn’t understand that she put out the paper for 30 years of her life using a magnifying glass to do all her reading and writing,” Ballantine Healy said.
But Morley Ballantine had influence and interests far beyond the press.
Her philanthropy helped nonprofits and causes throughout Southwest Colorado and the state. She served on boards of trustees for Fort Lewis College and the University of Denver.
She helped found the Women’s Resource Center in Durango and was a major supporter of Planned Parenthood.
“Along with all that, her big job, she felt, was mentoring. And I didn’t fully understand that until my mother died,” Ballantine Healy said.
But in the days after her mother’s death, dozens of women stopped Ballantine Healy to tell her about how her mother had taken an interest and supplied advice and encouragement.
Mann, former head of the Fort Lewis College music department, was one of those people.
“Morley was always one of my mentors, not that she knew that,” Mann said.
Mann spent a few months completing the extensive application for the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
Marilyn Van Derbur Atler introduced Ballantine’s story to the crowd of about 500 at the Marriott City Center hotel.
“Through her philanthropy and journalism, Morley campaigned for women’s equality issues, such as equal pay for equal work, protection from workplace harassment and the right to choose. Her efforts extend far beyond Durango, benefiting the entire state of Colorado,” Van Derbur Atler said.
Jill Tietjen, president of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, said the state and national halls are important because history overlooks women.
“Only 20 percent of news articles are about women,” Tietjen said. “Although today women earn the majority of college degrees, women make up 19 percent of the U.S. Congress and less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 executives.”
Counting this year’s class, the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame honors 142 women.
Inductees include former first lady Mamie Doud Eisenhower; former Secretary of State Madeline Albright; former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir; folk singer Judy Collins; and Clara Brown, a freed slave who was thought to be the first African-American woman to cross the plains during the Pikes Peak gold rush. Brown became a successful mine owner and bought the freedom of many other slaves.
“I think she would have been very proud and honored, and maybe humbled in some ways, to join this amazing group of women from Colorado who have achieved so much and really benefited the state,” Ballantine Healy said.