Theodosia Ammons (1862–1907) worked extensively throughout her life to advance the cause of women’s suffrage. She became president of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association and was cofounder of the department of domestic economy at Colorado Agricultural College (now Colorado State University), where Ammons served as the school’s first female faculty member and first female dean.
Theodosia Grace Ammons was born in Macon, North Carolina, in 1862. Her father, Jehu Richard Ammons, was a minister at a local Baptist church and involved her in church-related activities from an early age. Ammons’s brother Elias later served as the nineteenth governor of Colorado from 1913 to 1915, while her nephew Teller served as the state’s twenty-eighth governor from 1937 to 1939.
In 1871, when Theodosia was nine years old, Ammons’s father moved the family to Denver for job opportunities in the expanding mining and timber industries. She graduated from Denver High School in 1883 but did not attend college, for financial reasons. Instead, like many women at the time, she went into teaching, in her case at the same high school from which she had just graduated.
Ammons consistently worked to advance women’s suffrage in Colorado. With the help of fellow suffragist Eliza Routt, she developed a related interest in women’s education and began the promotion of domestic science in Colorado schools. In 1895 Ammons and Routt cofounded the department of domestic economy at Colorado Agricultural College in Fort Collins. The college was among the first co-ed universities in the state. Ammons became the university’s first female faculty member, providing young women with a well-rounded education that included practical skills and liberal arts courses. The curricula offered academic courses such as architecture and chemistry as well as applied arts courses such as cooking, sewing, and decorating. Ammons helped many new graduates find jobs as nurses or teachers.
Work in Women’s Suffrage
In 1902 Ammons became dean of woman’s work at Colorado Agricultural College, making her the first female dean in the school’s history. In doing so, one of her first actions as dean was to change the name from the Department of Domestic Economy to the Department of Domestic Science. Ammons’s focus turned to the scientific methods for cooking, hygiene, and architecture in homes. The name change came as another attempt to make the college more supportive of women’s education.
Meanwhile, Ammons continued her work on behalf of women’s suffrage. In 1902 she was elected president of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association and was also nominated to represent Colorado at the 1902 National Convention of Delegates of Woman Suffrage in Washington, DC. At the convention, she spoke about the importance of equal suffrage and its outcomes in Colorado. In her speech, Ammons argued that women voting would improve American politics by making it more equitable. She finished by mentioning the positive results of the recently held Suffrage Day at the Colorado Chautauqua in Boulder.
Ammons would later serve as principal of the Chautauqua School of Domestic Economy in Chautauqua Park, where she built a model cottage for summer living named the Gwenthean Cottage. As president of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association, Ammons again represented Colorado at the Thirty-Fifth Annual National Suffrage Convention in New Orleans in 1903.
Theodosia Ammons suffered from an unknown illness for years before her death on July 17, 1907, in Denver at the age of forty-five. She is remembered for the dual distinction of being the first female faculty member and first female dean at Colorado State. The university’s Special Collections Department includes Ammons’s writings on her activities at the school and in the broader suffrage movement. In addition, the school’s Home Economics building features a stained-glass window in Ammons’s honor that ties into the university’s Zonta International exhibit for famous suffragists.
In fall 2018, Ammons was among the suffragists and civic leaders included in a public art project in Fort Collins called Her Legacy: Women of Fort Collins, with her portrait appearing on the outer wall of CooperSmith’s Poolside Restaurant downtown.