Rep. Elizabeth Eyre Pellet (“Betty”) was the first woman Minority Leader in the state legislature, serving in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1940 to 1942 and then from 1948 to 1964, and as Minority Leader, 1955-56. In addition to being Minority Leader, Eyre served as Chair of the House Rules Committee.
Before beginning her career in politics, Eyre was an actress on Broadway and in silent movies, including a western. She married Robert Pellet, a mining engineer, and they eventually moved to Colorado to manage his family’s mines. When her husband became ill, she managed several of their mines and often worked in the mines.
Eyre lived in Rico and represented the counties of Dolores, Montezuma, and San Miguel. According to an article in The Milwaukee Journal, March 17, 1952, Eyre got herself elected to “bring Rico better roads.” She also fought to save the Rio Grande southern railroad and traveled to Washington, DC to convince top defense officials that the nation needed the railroad to get to the valuable ore. She managed to save the railroad for another 10 years and by then she “had her highway.”
Eyre sponsored bills creating the division of children and youth, and laws which provided education for disabled children. She spearheaded legislative efforts to provide equal pay for women and extend natural resources preservation.
Rep. Pellet was a memorable character. After losing a race for Congress (the first Colorado woman to run for Congress) and losing a race for the state Senate, she ran for the House again in 1948. She won by traveling the counties’ back roads and chatting with ranchers and miners over a cup of coffee.
The Journal also reported that Pellet’s infectious humor and nervous laugh “eased many a tight situation in the Colorado house.” The Journal went on to describe, “At the last session she took the microphone after tempers flared over a bitterly debated bill to comment on the ‘nice treats’ another representative had passed around to commemorate his birthday. ‘The ladies, in particular, want to say ‘thanks for the cigars.'”
Rep. Pellet is one of the women featured in the Women’s Gold Tapestry that hangs in the rotunda in the State Capitol building.
Note: The information on this page is made available through the generosity of the Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus, which has asked us to preserve, maintain and promote information they gathered.