One of the most well-known residents of Cañon City around the turn of the century was Minnie L. Harding, a formidable woman. Margaretta Lahm was born on June 13, 1857 in Canton, Ohio. She came to Cañon City for a visit but instead chose to stay, opening a kindergarten in a tent on the corner of 5th and Main. She married Theodore M. Harding, a hardware merchant, in 1882 in her hometown of Canton before returning to Cañon City.
Minnie was involved in a variety of clubs within the city throughout her life. She was a charter member of the Friends in Council, the Dicken’s Club, and the Woman’s Club. She also served for some time as the president of the Cañon City Improvement League, which was dedicated to civic betterment of the city. During World War I, Minnie was highly active in the community and with the war effort. She was founder-chairman of the Cañon City Committee of Fatherless Children of France, an organization that aided children left homeless by the war. She also took part in Red Cross work and food conservation and even had a certificate signed by Woodrow Wilson for her distinguished service on behalf of the Red Cross. Minnie took over as president of the Harding Hardware Company after the passing of her husband in 1913.
Minnie was dedicated to education throughout her life and served on the board of regents for the University of Colorado and a wing of Sewall Hall on the campus is named for her. The scholarship fund Minnie began in 1902 is still going today, over 100 years later. The Minnie L. Harding Educational Loan Fund was established with only $90 but two years later, the working capital was up to $204.64. The loan was created to provide interest-free loans to assist Colorado women in obtaining a college education, something Minnie believed strongly in. It was estimated by 1982 that the loans totaled more than $1 million and by 1987 the loan had helped 1,600 girls go to college.
Happy birthday Minnie!
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.