Her story: Renowned women’s historian Jill Tietjen to speak in Tabernash
June 15, 2017
A night with famed women’s historian Jill Tietjen
5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Church of the Eternal Hills
515 County Road, Tabernash
Free to the public
Women in the United States are beginning to understand that the rights and privileges their foremothers fought so hard for can be lost, according to Jill Tietjen, co-author of the award-winning book, "Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America."
But the fight is not over, she exclaimed.
"It's really up to us to ensure that we retain those rights," said Tietjen, who will hold a speaking engagement Friday in Tabernash.
The Colorado native is all too familiar with the hardships women have faced throughout history. Her mission is to tell their stories.
Over the decades, Tietjen has become a renowned women's historian, a far departure from her 40-year career as an electrical engineer.
"How does an electrical engineer become a women's historian?" she laughed, recounting her profession as being one predominately led by males. Almost 90 percent of workers in her field were men.
Through the Society of Women Engineers, Tietjen was involved in setting up an essay contest in Colorado and Wyoming on great women in the world of science. It was an outreach program for sixth graders to get them interested in math and science. That was in 1988.
So who were those women? That question led to endless hours of research on the pioneering women who blazed the path that Tietjen would ultimately follow.
Through that research, pouring over texts and photos of women who deserved so much recognition for their contributions, Tietjen realized their stories needed to be shared.
It took her five years — plus 16 years of mental preparation — to produce her first book.
In the time she wasn't preoccupied with putting pen to paper, Tietjen advocated for women to be honored in a separate fashion, by nominating them into national halls of fame.
Her first successful nomination was for a woman who Tietjen said still drives her advocacy to this day.
Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who developed the computer compiler that allowed for today's technological advances like iPhones and laptops, was considered one of the top women in her field. Though she wasn't a household name and did most of her work outside the public eye.
When Tietjen researched Hopper's story, creator of the software that translates human language into the ones and zeroes that a computer understands, she understood how much recognition was deserved but that had gone unnoted.
Because of Tietjen's pursuits, Hopper was awarded the National Medal of Technology, which she asked Tietjen to receive on her behalf at the White House due to her illness at the time.
Tietjen then nominated Hopper to be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Another success. Tietjen later watched as the Destroyer Hopper, of her namesake, was launched.
"To be able to tell her story and to have people get that flash of recognition in their eyes when they get it, how important she was, that's what drives me," she said.
It would be several years later when Tietjen, who resides in Centennial, found her own time in the spotlight.
She was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2010, alongside the very women she had researched and written about over the years.
"If I serve as a role model … and if what I've done motivates or inspires other people to nominate women or to tell women's stories, then I've actually really succeeded," she explained.
That's precisely what her goal will be when she speaks Friday at the Church of the Eternal Hills in Tabernash.
Though she authored a book concentrating on American women's achievements, she focuses on the advocacy of women worldwide.
"Women were not educated and given rights, so we have thousands of years of social mores, social structures, to overcome," she said. "It's only very recently that women were educated. It's hard when you have to overcome all that."
She speaks vehemently about 1848, the year of the first Women's Rights Convention in the United States, and the rights that women didn't have at that time.
While she doesn't engage in political rhetoric or draw parallels with today's woman, she is sometimes asked related questions.
The favored inquiry: "When are we going to have a woman president?"
"In general I try to appeal to all women, regardless of political affiliation," she said. "I tell women's stories. People need to understand that women have value and their accomplishments have merit; they need to be recognized for their accomplishments."