Frances McEwen Belford

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Frances McEwen Belford, from a 1919 publication.
Frances McEwen Belford as a young woman, from a 1919 publication.

Frances McEwen Belford (January 13, 1839 — January 27, 1921) was an American activist based in Denver, Colorado, known as the "Mother of the Lincoln Highway" for her leadership in creating the coast-to-coast interstate highway named for Abraham Lincoln.

Early life[edit]

Frances C. McEwen was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John S. McEwen and Isabella Barkley Highlands McEwen. She met Abraham Lincoln once, in Illinois, soon after he was elected president in 1861.[1]


Belford was known as the "Mother of the Lincoln Highway".[2][3] She addressed women's clubs and she lobbied lawmakers, asking "And what could be finer evidence of national loyalty than a wide, fair highway, traced through the heart of the land, built, maintained, guarded, beautified by the people of the states traversed by it?"[1]

Belford was the first woman to serve on Colorado's State Board of Charities, Corrections, and Pardons. She was a trustee of the Colorado state teachers' college, and of the state agricultural college as well. Her husband was a Congressman and her neighbor was Sarah Platt-Decker, president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which gave her access to national audiences for her ideas.[1] She chaired the legislative committee of Colorado's Woman's Christian Temperance Union for five years, and spoke on "Women and the Affairs of the State" at Colorado's "Congress of the Women" in 1901.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Frances McEwen married lawyer James Burns Belford in 1860. They had eight children, including a daughter, Frances Belford Wayne, who became a noted journalist in Denver.[5] She was widowed in 1910 and she died in 1921, aged 82 years, in Denver.[6][7]

A dormitory at the University of Northern Colorado is named Belford Hall after Frances McEwen Belford.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Wanda Wiley, "The Mother of the Lincoln Highway" The Green Book (October 1919): 61-63, 105.
  2. ^ Frances McEwen Belford, The Lincoln Highway National Museum and Archives.
  3. ^ Brian Butko, Greetings from the Lincoln Highway (Stackpole Books 2013): 168. ISBN 9780811711746
  4. ^ "Congress of the Women" Weekly Gazette (July 17, 1901): 3. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "Woman Awarded Gold Medal by University" Fourth Estate (July 29, 1922): 13.
  6. ^ "Best Loved Woman Dies" The Sun (January 28, 1921): 2. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read
  7. ^ "Mrs. Frances McEwen Belford" New York Times (January 28, 1921): 11. via ProQuest
  8. ^ "History Lesson: What's in a (UNC) Name?" Greeley Daily Tribune (October 11, 1974): 43. via Newspapers.comopen access publication – free to read

External links[edit]