Jerry Kopel

Esther Peterson died in December, 1997, a few days before Christmas at age 91. Esther "who"? Both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post often run obituaries of famous non-Coloradans, but neither deemed Esther Peterson worthy of comment.

Mrs. Peterson did have a Colorado connection. She came to national attention as a pioneer in the area of women's rights in employment under President John Kennedy where she was director of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau and as head of Kennedy's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

President Lyndon Johnson established the White House Office of Consumer Affairs and appointed her as the first director. Under President Jimmy Carter she became head of the Consumer Affairs Council, and according to one news article "empowering her to oversee new consumer advocacy programs within 43 federal agencies and giving her a say in all administrative proposals affecting consumers".

President carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

The Colorado connection? In October, 1966, Mrs. Rose West of Denver led a group of urban and suburban housewives under an organization entitled "Housewives for Lower Food Prices" (HELP) to boycott the major area supermarkets: Safeway, King Soopers, Miller's, Red Owl and Furr's to stop runaway increases in area food prices.

Esther Peterson came to Denver to support the boycott, stating in advance "I'm a housewife and I know what I'd be doing if I were in Denver." Mrs.peterson arrived at Stapleton Airport to be greeted by Mrs. West. The two, who had never met before, immediately hugged and that picture appeared in the next issue of Time Magazine. President Johnson, who had other items of his priority agenda, was NOT amused.

The boycott ended with a whimper, not a bang, when HELP entered into an agreement with one of the boycotted supermarkets to take them off the list. HELP erroneously assumed housewives would simply follow their direction as to who to boycott or not to boycott and they were wrong.

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