Why Early Twentieth Century Women Made their Splash in Arizona Politics

Why Early Twentieth Century Women Made their Splash in Arizona Politics

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Why Early Twentieth Century Women Made their Splash in Arizona Politics

Since the beginning of Arizona history, women were confined to the traditional roles of housekeeping and child rearing due to the conditions of life on the frontier. At this time, Arizona was a land of chaos and therefore lacked a civilized community. In effect, women’s most important responsibility remained within her home to create a comforting and refined atmosphere which would ultimately raise the standard of living in Arizona (Fischer 47).

These ideas continued to emerge in the twentieth century and left women with few choices and opportunities. However, two women, Josephine Hughes and Isabella Greenway, were able to free themselves from the constraints of society and undertake influential roles in the political realm because of the extraordinary but favorable circumstances in their lives. Both women were wealthy, courageous, persistent, or associated with powerful and influential men.

Josephine Hughes amazingly rose above societal norms and played an active role in political movements because of her privileged financial status. Because she was a woman of means, her home had all of the modern conveniences of the time. For instance, her home was the first in the Tucson area to be illuminated with candlesticks while her neighbors used a burning rag in a saucer of grease as a means for lighting. Most importantly, the Hughes’ were the first to obtain a cistern which was considered a luxury because they no longer had to buy their drinking water from peddlers who sold it a very high price (Boehringer 99). These conveniences eliminated the monotonous, time-consuming activities necessary for a woman to sustain a household. Therefore, she had more time and energy to dedicate herself to various causes such as the suffrage and temperance movements.

However, Josephine Hughes was able to surpass the restraints imposed by tradition because she possessed a quality that simply could not be bought: courage. She manifested such inner strength especially in situations when the odds were against her. In 1892, she made the treacherous journey from Pennsylvania to the West with her infant daughter. At this time, the Apaches conducted a series of violent raids that left many white settlers in the area dead. Because of the obvious danger, Josephine carried her baby in one arm and a loaded rifle in the other (98).

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She also opened the first public school for girls in Tucson in February of 1873, despite the natives’ opposition to a "coed" education ("’Mother of Arizona’. . ."). On the first day, only three girls attended, but by the end of the month, thirty were present. New situations are always overwhelming and intimidating but it is through courage that an individual sets aside his/her reservations in order to accomplish the impossible. Josephine Hughes exemplified extreme bravery and it takes someone of such character to go beyond her limitations and make her mark in a "man’s" world.

Josephine Hughes also showed a great deal of persistence and patience, two attributes that are undoubtedly necessary when fighting any controversial cause. Hughes was an active participant in the women’s suffrage movement in Arizona. In the 1891 Constitutional Convention, Josephine Hughes and Laura M. Johns, a national suffrage organizer, spoke before the convention in the hopes of including an equal rights protection clause in the constitution (Boehringer 104). Despite their insightful and informative presentations, this measure was ultimately defeated. However, both women continued their struggle and made women’s voting rights come before every successive session of the legislature. In 1891, 1893, 1895, and 1897, these suffrage pioneers were once again defeated; one house passed the suffrage bill while another did not. In 1899, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Johns suffered another disappointment when both houses passed the bill only to be vetoed by Governor Brodie (103). Although many doors were slammed in her face, Josephine Hughes continued to knock on other ones until one finally opened and gave her cause a fair and fighting chance. Despite the numerous setbacks, Hughes’ perseverance and patience were ultimately rewarded many years later when women were given their right to vote.

Although Josephine Hughes’ embodied a strong and independent spirit, she fought many of her causes through her alliance with powerful and influential men, particularly her husband and son. Josephine Hughes used her husband’s newspaper The Arizona Daily Star, established in 1858, to further the temperance cause. She was a strong supporter of this movement because she believed prohibition would cure all social evils lurking in their midst (Clark 71). Mrs. Hughes initially concentrated her efforts within the Daily Star because it was considered a political authority and therefore had a great deal of influence within the Tucson community (105). At first, she worked alongside the employees, making ink rollers and even assisting in the mechanical department ("’Mother of Arizona’. . ."). As she continued to work, her own prominence within the newspaper grew. She took advantage of her newfound status and proposed the Sunday closing law where employees would be paid in the beginning of the week instead of towards the end. This was to ensure the men would not spend their paycheck "celebrating" in the saloons. In addition, Mrs. Hughes not only printed articles in the Daily Star advocating the temperance movement but also refused to allow saloons to advertise within the newspaper, regardless of the loss in revenue (104). Mrs. Hughes initially worked behind her husband’s persona to obtain employment and assure the growth of her own influence, but it is ultimately her efforts and ideas that furthered the temperance cause in the Tucson area. After all, her husband’s newspaper was regarded as a political authority at this time, and after working long and hard hours, she ultimately gained control of what the Daily Star printed.

Josephine Hughes’ influence over her son, Senator John Hughes, was crucial to women’s victory in obtaining their right to vote. John Hughes was well aware of his mother’s limitations in pursuing this cause because she did not have the legal right to vote. After witnessing her triumphs and disappointments, the suffrage movement inevitably became one of her son’s priorities. In 1912, already a senator, John introduced the resolution which amended Arizona’s constitution to include equal rights for women. In 1913, the suffrage bill was passed a year after Arizona became a state (103). Because he was raised by a woman with such strong feminist ideals, John Hughes understood the importance of women’s rights and respected their need for the same liberties men have enjoyed since their births. Although Josephine Hughes could not directly participate in the legal scheme of things, it is her influence as a mother that finally made the suffrage movement in Arizona a success.

Another woman who stepped beyond societal norms and made her mark in politics was Isabella Greenway. Like Josephine Hughes, she was affiliated with important men of the time, which ultimately opened her door to future opportunities in the political realm. In 1923, she married John Greenway, an influential mining engineer in
Arizona. A year after his death in 1927, Isabella Greenway made her political debut as the Democratic National Committeewoman for Arizona. The Democratic Party as first felt such an appointment would be a tribute to her deceased husband; no one expected Isabella to take her responsibilities seriously ("Isabella Greenway King
Dies. . ."). Although she later proved to be a capable and enthusiastic politician, she did not initially receive this position based on merit; it was simply because she was associated with a man of prestige.

Mrs. Greenway was also a close friend of an important political family: the Roosevelts’. These relations were the basis for some of her appointed responsibilities within her party. For instance, a sector of the Democratic Party sent Isabella as a delegate to oppose the Economy Act of 1933, an act designed to cut veterans’ pensions. In addition, she was involved in amending the new bill so as to reach a compromise between those against the pension cut and those for it, such as President Roosevelt. Although Isabella fought fervently for veterans’ aid issues, Isabella’s political sector appointed her to this position because of her well-known friendship with the Roosevelts in an attempt to persuade the President in their favor. Again, it is apparent that her capability as a politician was not the predominant element in her appointment to this position but it was rather her political ties and connections that became the decisive factor.

Nevertheless, Isabella Greenway’s perseverance is what led to her success as a "mover and a shaker" in national and state politics, especially in the Roosevelt presidential campaign. In 1932, she addressed the Arizona Convention in the hopes of gaining support for Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Working against precedent, the delegation was the first in Arizona’s history to be instructed as to how to vote in the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Of important significance is the fact that the delegation was Democratic whereas Arizona had voted as a Republican state in the past. She also undertook the difficult task of calling upon the Republican Party to help elect Roosevelt into office ("Mrs. Greenway Asks. . ."). Due to Mrs. Greenway’s pioneering efforts, Arizona gave Roosevelt the largest majority it had ever given to a presidential candidate. She was a hardworking woman who was not afraid to get her hands dirty especially in new and "messy" situations. Because she never gave up on any of her causes in spite of the many overwhelming obstacles she faced, she not only became a prominent political figure but also a role model for both men and women, needless to say, an astounding achievement.

Since the beginning of Arizona history, women were confined to the traditional roles of housekeeping and child rearing. Because Arizona was part of the frontier, it lacked a well-established and civilized society. Therefore, the community considered women’s most important responsibilities to lie within her home. Women were expected to create a refined atmosphere in the hopes of raising Arizona’s standard of living. This, in effect, left women with few choices and opportunities. However, some women such as Josephine Hughes and Isabella Greenway, rose above these societal norms to make their mark in the political realm because of the favorable circumstances that encompassed them. Wealth, courage, persistence and influential ties are only a few of the many extraordinary factors that paved the way for these women’s successes. It is their triumphs that have ultimately created more opportunities for women in Arizona. Perhaps, it is their efforts that have opened the doors so widely that, in 1999, Arizona’s first five electoral seats belong to women.

Works Cited

Boehringer, Louise C. "Josephine Brawley Hughes- Crusader, State Builder." Arizona
Historical Review. Jan. 1930: 98-107.

Clark, Nancy Tisdale: "The Demise of Demon Rum in Arizona." Journal of Arizona
History. 18 (1977): 69-89.

Fischer, Christiane. "A Profile of Women in Arizona in Frontier Days." Journal of the
West. 16.3 (1977): 42-53.

"Isabella Greenway King Dies Here at 67." Tucson Citizen. 18 Dec. 1953.

"’Mother of Arizona’ Led Many Causes." Arizona Daily Star. 22 Aug. 1975.

"Mrs. Greenway Asks G.O.P. to Help Roosevelt Election." Arizona Daily Star. 6 Nov.
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