She lived a life that was full of adventure and exploration, love and laughter, hardship and adversity. Dorothy Dot"
Stillman was, at various times in her life, a magazine saleswoman, a telephone operator, a chorus girl, a Rosie the
Riveter," a dance instructor, a door-to-door saleswoman, a an entrepreneur, a uranium prospector and a jewelry
She spent the last years of her life in Durango before her death in 1996 at the age of 89. Before her death, much
prodded by daughters Ann Flatten and Martha Cramer, she wrote her memoir, From Holes in my
Hose to Rocks in my Socks.
On Feb. 27, Flatten, Cramer and Flatten's daughter, Karen Langhart, shared stories from the book and their own
recollections at the American Association of University Women's Book and Author Lunch. The event was held in the
program rooms at the Durango Public Library.
Cheryl Jackson was the mistress of ceremonies for the occasion. Guido's Favorite Foods prepared chicken
marsala, arugula salad with piave cheese, and three-cheese penne macaroni. Dessert was a killer baked apple with
custard cream and served with homemade biscotti crumbled on it.
Even a few men braved the estrogen-laden gathering. Dick Mason, Don Gordon and Lee Conger all
enjoyed the afternoon with the ladies.
Tables were decorated with a still life of Stillman's daily lunch - a bacon sandwich, piece of fruit, cookies and
small glass bottle of Coca-Cola, along with a pack of (candy) cigarettes. She would drink a small of can of vegetable
juice every few weeks to say she'd gotten her veggies. Teresa Jordan, who has begun a new career as a Stampin'
Up! demonstrator, created picture pyramids for every table of Stillman at every age of her life. Langhart created a
favor - a mini-jigsaw puzzle of a photo of Stillman dressing up in a magnificent feather hat from her days living in
Old West town Virginia City, Nev.
Stillman was a jigsaw-puzzle fanatic, and in honor of her love of Coca-Cola and jigsaw puzzles, her daughters had put
one together of all things vintage Coke and had it framed and hung on the wall.
But it was the stories that enthralled. She left her home in rural Oklahoma at 15 - along with her younger sister
Pansy - after a conflict between Stillman's love of dance and her angry mother's Christian fundamentalist strictures.
She endured a marriage to a man who had put himself through college as a stride-piano player at speakeasies and
struggled with bipolar disorder. Through it all, Stillman used her intelligence, courage and creativity, along with a
strong work ethic, to make it in the world.
For 35 years in her later life, she and friend and business partner Marguerite Pete" Williams, traveled, created and
had more adventures than one could recount. A favorite is the conflict with the priest at St. Mary's in the Mountains
in Virginia City, the Rev. Robert Jelliffe. According to Stillman's book, after deconstructing the church so much it
was in danger of falling, abusing some young monks who were assigned to him and possibly sexually abusing young boys, Jelliffe finally did something they could call him on.
He pushed Williams, who had been stricken with polio when young, so hard she landed on the floor with a heavy chair
landing on top of her.
After much ado, including articles in newspapers and Newsweek magazine, and a great deal of bias on the
prosecutor's behalf, Jelliffe was acquitted. In what has to be one of the best headlines ever, the Territorial
Enterprise and Virginia City News, which bills itself as Mark Twain's Newspaper," wrote: Pastor, Parishioner in Waltz-Around, I Didn't Hit Her, I Pushed Her! Cried He."
After the lunch, Flatten and Cramer signed copies of both their mother's book and the collected poems by Aunt Pete"
in a book named Seeds.
I didn't have the privilege of meeting Stillman, but her daughters and granddaughter did her proud. They left all the
attendees with the lesson she taught them: Live by the golden rule, not necessarily because you're religious, but
because it's the right thing to do.
Whether traveling on spring break or at home in La Plata County, here's hoping these folks have happy birthdays -
Ed McCoola, Cindy McLean, Duane Speh, Haley Cotgageorge, Julie Ward, Marian
Rizzo, Randy Bondow, Bethany Bieth, Robert Ludwig, Jane Pearson, Ruth
Cordalis, Kevin Simonsen, Jamie Marquez, Stan Hayes, Sandy Seibert, Bryce
Hoyt, Tyler Sullwood and Cory Kindle.
The Book and Author Lunch put on by the American Association of University Women that was held Feb. 27 was about more
than sociability and books. It was fundraiser for the AAUW Educational Fund, which provides all kinds of scholarships
and research grants to women both in the United States and around the world.
Bernardine Cox gave attendees a good lesson on the history and types of scholarships of AAUW.
AAUW was founded at the same time as Durango in 1881, with 17 female college graduates. They were obviously already
ahead of their time, and they wanted other women to have the opportunities they had been given.
In 1917, 36 years after its founding, AAUW began granting international fellowships.
The organization is particularly proud for having given Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie the funds to purchase radium
for her experiments. That happened in 1920, and the grant was not chump change. It was for $156,413 to purchase 1
gram of the radioactive substance.
Whether it's for undergraduate work or graduate work, the scholarships have made a real difference in helping women
reach their life goals. A local example is Irene Berry, who went back to school as a single mother, working
full time and a nontraditional student at Fort Lewis College. She went on to earn a master's degree, is now teaching
in Aztec and is working on her doctorate. Talk about planting a seed.
There are two local scholarships for women just like Berry. The first is the Virginia Shoser Scholarship, a
fully endowed scholarship at FLC. Shoser was a lifelong educator who left money at the time of her death to create
the scholarship, and AAUW members took it all the way to endowment status.
In 2009, longtime member Janet Watson died. The organization created a second scholarship in honor of this
women who so loved learning, and it is well on the way to being fully endowed as well.
Membership is open to anyone, male or female, who has an associate degree or higher degree from any regionally
accredited college or university. Those who are still pursuing their studies may join as student affiliates-at-large.
Every AAUW is always stronger with a wide cross-section of members. My friend the late Barbara Conrad told me
once that wherever she and her husband, Bob, moved, the first thing she did was join AAUW, where she would
meet interesting people and continue to make a difference in women's lives.
If you're interested in joining, the local membership chairwoman is Sharon Gordon. Call her at 247-3890 for
To learn more about AAUW, visit www.aauw.org.
For information on upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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