Not only was Ruth Carter the first female mayor of Cañon City, she was the first woman in Colorado to gain the title of Chief Probation Officer in 1970.
Ruth was born September 30, 1916 in Kay County, Oklahoma to Henry and Edna Cresswell. Her family moved to Kansas in 1922. Ruth graduated from El Dorado High School in 1934 and Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas in 1938. According to the 1940 Federal Census, Ruth went on to work as a teacher after graduation. She also worked for Beech Aircraft and for the Ration Board during World War II. Ruth had two children: Hank and Connie.
In 1962, Ruth, her mother, and Hank moved to Howard, Colorado to operate a grocery store and filling station. According to an oral history with Ruth, she saw an ad for the place in Howard. At the time, Hank was running a service station while Ruth was the bookkeeper. As they read the ad, sleet and wind pounded their service station, potentially helping them make the decision to move! The trio moved to Colorado and ran the service station until Ruth’s mother’s health became poor. Ruth came into Cañon City and was offered a job at the penitentiary, which she turned down. However, the director of the welfare department heard she was looking for work and offered her a position. She worked with the department until 1967, when she became a probation officer. In 1970, Ruth was named chief probation officer of the 11th Judicial District. Due to her work, she was named “Probation Officer of the Year” in 1982, an honor presented by the government. Ruth retired in 1986, but she continued to stay busy.
Ruth began to teach criminal justice courses at Pueblo Community College. One of her classes was taped and shared with clubs that hire speakers for events. Ruth was invited to become a circuit speaker for the Knife and Fork Club in 1987 and she spoke 38 times at clubs in 19 states. After her speaking tour ended, Ruth briefly came out of retirement to work for the Pueblo Probation Project as part of a sabbatical program for the State Judicial Department. The next step for Ruth was running for city council. She was elected in 1991 for an at-large seat on the council. After serving her term, she then declared she would run for mayor. Upon her election, she became the first female mayor of Cañon City, serving one term of two years beginning in 1996. According to an article in the Cañon City Daily Record on May 19, 2001, mayor was Ruth’s favorite job as she had the opportunity to meet “such wonderful people.” Ruth moved back to Kansas in May 2001, passing away shortly after in November at the age of 85.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.