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Women Were - And Are- Integral To The Building Of Las Vegas


United States, Bureau of Reclamation/UNLV Special Collections

Black and white image of downtown Las Vegas, looking east from the corner of Fremont and Main Streets. July 17, 1945.

Las Vegas and Clark County have exploded in the last few decades. The growth has been sometimes painful and sometimes exhilarating.

And for much of our history, women have played a key role in building and planning for Southern Nevada. Think Virginia Valentine, Pat Mulroy, Thalia Dondero. Think Margi Grein, Carol Vallardo and Ann O'Connell.

UNLV Special Collections Library is presenting a panel as part of a larger Building Las Vegas project. This panel, which focuses on women, will be this Thursday at the historic 5th Street School.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani will be on that panel. Giunchigliani said she worked with dozens of women throughout her years of service in the Legislature and on the county commission. 

“You had these strong, smart, caring women that were not afraid to share,” she said.

Giunchigliani believes women had to work harder to prove themselves but when they did many of the men in power would "open the door" for them. 

Besides the people leading the state over the years, she said many of the people working in the layers of government were women.

“They were the quiet people who got stuff done,” she said.

Jen Lewis of KB Homes will also be on the panel. She agreed with Giunchigliani.

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"The people running the planning divisions were women,” she said.

Plus, she pointed out, that many of the large homebuilders and construction companies were either run by women or had women in executive positions.

Claytee White is moderating the panel. White is the director of UNLV's Oral History Research Center. She believes Nevada was out front in having women in positions of power and planning because of the state's roots.

"In the wild west, women have always been allowed certain freedoms," she said, "We got the vote earlier. It’s a tradition that freedoms for some reason come more naturally in a place that did not have a lot of rules at one time."

White said researchers have already captured hundreds of interviews, documents, manuscripts, and photographs that provide a picture of how Las Vegas was built to become the unique city that it is and how women played an important role in that construction. 

Stephanie Evans is the project manager for the Building Las Vegas series.

“We talk to these people and each one of them has unique knowledge about urban history,” she said.

The Building Las Vegas project is in its second of five years. The UNLV Special Collections Library have been gathering photos, papers and oral interviews from people who helped to lay the foundations for Las Vegas and helped manage the county's growth.

Evans said history, urban planning, and architectural students - to name a few- will benefit from the growing archive. 


Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani; Jen Lewis, vice president, Lewis Management; Claytee White, director, Oral History Research Center at UNLV; Stephanie Evans, project manager, Building Las Vegas series

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