Katharine Grafton Patterson (1839–1902) came to Colorado in 1872 with her husband, Thomas Patterson, and soon established herself as an influential clubwoman, suffragist, and philanthropist. Devoutly religious, Patterson dedicated the majority of her life to the service of others. She was a president of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association, was actively involved with the Woman’s Club of Denver and the Woman’s Suffrage Association, and played an integral part in the successful 1893 campaign for women’s suffrage in Colorado. Her daughters, Mary and Margaret, were also suffragists who established the Young Woman’s Suffrage Club at the family’s elegant mansion.
Katharine Grafton was born January 1, 1839, in Wellsburg, West Virginia, to Samuel Howell Grafton and Jane Bryant Grafton. The Grafton family was prominent in West Virginia and Maryland; the town of Grafton, West Virginia, is named for the family. The Graftons were also deeply religious, and Katharine, or “Kate” as she was known in her early years, was the grandniece of Alexander Campbell, who helped found the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) during the Second Great Awakening (ca. 1790–1840).
When Katharine was young, her family relocated to Marion, Ohio. She attended school at a seminary in Hopedale, Ohio, then went on to the now-defunct Berean College in Jacksonville, Illinois, graduating with literary honors in 1860.
After graduation, Grafton moved to Greencastle, Indiana, to teach at a seminary. She intended to become a missionary in India, but she never fulfilled that dream. While living in Indiana, she met Thomas Patterson, and the two married in 1863 in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Originally from Ireland, Thomas McDonald Patterson had immigrated to New York with his family in 1849. In 1853 his family moved west to Crawfordsville. In 1861 Patterson enlisted in the Eleventh Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry and spent a year serving in the Civil War. After his discharge, Patterson moved to Greencastle to attend Asbury University. There he met Katharine Grafton. He soon transferred to Wabash College and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1867 and established a successful practice in Crawfordsville.
The Pattersons eventually had five children, three of whom survived into adulthood. While living in Indiana, Katharine gave birth to their first three children: James McDonald in 1864, Mary Grafton in 1867, and Margaret Mountjoy in 1870.
In 1872 the Pattersons decided to relocate to Denver. There the Pattersons had their final two children, both of whom died at a young age.
Thomas Patterson became a prominent lawyer in Colorado and went on to serve as the Denver city attorney and win election to the US House of Representatives and Senate. In 1890 he purchased the Rocky Mountain News, and later owned the Denver Times as well.
In 1892 Thomas and Katharine Patterson bought a mansion for their family at the corner of Pennsylvania Street and East Eleventh Avenue in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
While her husband busied himself with politics and publishing, Katharine Patterson became a prominent member of Denver society and a leading clubwoman and philanthropist. She helped organize the Central Christian Church and was a founder of the Ladies’ Relief Society, a charitable organization established to provide care, shelter, and food for the elderly, homeless, and infirm. She also aided in the establishment of the Denver Orphans’ Home and the Woman’s Club of Denver. In 1887 she founded the Woman’s Home Club, later renamed the Young Woman’s Christian Association in 1893. Beginning in 1899, she was an associate member of the Denver Woman’s Press Club. She was also a member of the Fortnightly Club, the Denver Artists’ Club, and Der Deutsche Damen Club. Patterson believed in beautifying public school classrooms and actively promoted the use of art in public school settings.
Patterson was involved in the fight for women’s suffrage as early as 1877, when the question was first put to voters in the new state. That year, she was elected to serve as the corresponding secretary for the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Colorado. The 1877 campaign failed, but when the suffrage movement in Colorado revived in 1890, Patterson’s name headed a list of Denverites interested in the issue. She was actively involved in the successful 1893 campaign for women’s suffrage in Colorado, as were her daughters, Margaret and Mary Patterson. Katharine Patterson hosted prosuffrage speakers and social events at her home and was also involved with prosuffrage groups such as the Woman’s Club of Denver and the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association. Meanwhile, Margaret and Mary, then in their twenties, founded the Young Woman’s Suffrage League at a meeting of fifty young women held at the family’s Eleventh Avenue mansion. They served as presidents of the organization and helped push for women’s rights in Colorado.
After the successful 1893 campaign, Katharine Patterson continued to fight for national women’s suffrage and served several terms as president of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association. In 1894 The Woman Voter—the monthly suffrage newspaper published by the Woman Suffrage Party—lauded Patterson’s achievements. She continued to hold association meetings at her home and graciously presided over annual meetings. Unfortunately, Patterson did not live to see her goal of national suffrage come to fruition.
Katharine Patterson suffered difficult losses in her later years: her son James died in 1892, and her daughter Mary passed away in 1894. Her sole surviving child, Margaret, went on to marry Richard Crawford Campbell.
Katharine Grafton Patterson died on July 16, 1902. Although she had experienced great loss, she remained devoutly religious throughout her life and tirelessly gave back to her community. She played an integral part in pushing forward women’s rights in the state of Colorado, helping to secure new freedoms. Today, her name is often forgotten, but her influence remains in the continuing existence of the charitable organizations she founded.
Thomas Patterson lived with Margaret and Richard Campbell at the family’s Eleventh Avenue mansion until his death in 1916. Now known as the Croke-Patterson-Campbell Mansion, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is operated as a boutique hotel called the Patterson Inn.