Helen Thorpe is an author and freelance journalist living in Denver, Colorado, United States who was the First Lady of Colorado following her husband's inauguration until their divorce in 2015. She has written for major American newspapers and magazines, and has authored two books.
Thorpe attended Princeton University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. In 1989, she attended Columbia University as a graduate student, receiving a Master's degree in English literature.
Some of her first jobs following her graduation from Princeton were in Boston, working as a waitress and as an unpaid intern at the Atlantic Monthly. She then worked for a short time at both The New York Observer as a staff writer, and then, having caught the attention of editor Tina Brown, for New Yorker Magazine. In 1994, she was hired by Texas Monthly and moved to Austin. She left the magazine in 1999.
Her stories have also been published in George, New York, Westword, The New York Times Magazine, and 5280. She wrote Talk of the Town for the The New Yorker, and has written for Slate and Harper's Bazaar.
Thorpe also published two books. Just Like Us, which follows the lives of four Denver girls of Mexican ancestry and deals heavily with aspects of immigration into the United States, was published by Scribner in 2009. It subsequently won the Colorado Book Award and was named one of the best books published that year by the Washington Post. Her second book, Soldier Girls, was published by Scribner in 2014. It describes the experiences of three women who enlisted in the Army National Guard before 9/11. The three women had anticipated only part-time military service but ultimately served deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One was a single mother of three children. Soldier Girls was named the number one nonfiction book of that year by Time Magazine.
Some of Thorpe's stories have also aired on the radio shows This American Life and Soundprint. In addition Just Like Us was adapted for the stage by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and Soldier Girls was optioned by HBO and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a potential mini-series. Thorpe is a board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
On August 5, 2014, Thorpe appeared on The Daily Show to promote Soldier Girls. She is now working on a new nonfiction project for Scribner.
She was born in London, England to Irish parents and was raised in Medford, New Jersey.
Thorpe's father, Larry, was born in Dublin, Ireland. He graduated from the University of Dublin and then worked as an engineer for the BBC Radio in London. Her mother is Marie Brady from Virginia, County Cavan. When she was 18, she left home to study nursing in London, where they met.
When Thorpe was one, the family moved to New Jersey so that Larry could accept a job for RCA. Thorpe remained on her mother's Irish passport holding dual Irish/British citizenship. She became a US citizen when she was 21.
Her husband was John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado. They met in 2000 at her 37th birthday party while she was living in Texas and he was the owner or co-owner of several popular brewpubs, still yet to become Mayor of Denver. He had accompanied a mutual friend. They married in January 2002 with a Quaker wedding ceremony in Austin. In July 2012, the couple announced plans to separate amicably after 10 years of marriage, and they divorced in January 2015. In an interview, Hickenlooper stated that Thorpe told him that if he was planning to run for president, she was willing to remain married. Hickenlooper referred to her offer as "amazingly generous", but declined, stating later he didn't wish to prolong her unhappiness. Their son, Teddy, was born on July 5, 2002.
- 2009 - Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America
- 2014 - Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War