Tag Archives: correspondence

Isabella Greenway: Single Mother, Congresswoman, Tucsonan

19 Nov

“I wonder if you have ever been in the position I am . . . .”

At the height of the Great Depression, Isabella Greenway was serving as Arizona’s first female congresswoman and the state’s only representative in Washington. The twice-widowed mother of three was a staunch supporter and friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a confidant of Eleanor Roosevelt, and had been close to Theodore Roosevelt and his family throughout her life. Her platform as a U.S. Representative for Arizona included work on behalf of cattle ranching, mining, and conservation.

AHS_BN205809

Isabella Greenway circa 1930. B#205809

Greenway also demonstrated a passionate dedication to assisting veterans. During the First World War, Greenway had led the Women’s Land Army in New Mexico, organizing women in the difficult work of tending farms and harvesting crops while the majority of men were fighting in Europe. As a widow of two veterans of the Spanish-American war, Greenway would continue to make supporting servicemen part of her life’s work. In the 1920s, Greenway founded the Arizona Hut, a Tucson furniture workshop, to employ disabled WWI veterans and their immediate families. When the Great Depression forced the Hut’s closure, Greenway built the Arizona Inn in Tucson, claiming that it gave her a means of providing a permanent home to the surplus handiwork of the veterans. The now world-renowned Arizona Inn still features a woodworking shop that continues the tradition of the Arizona Hut.

MS0311_b214_f3058b

First row, l-r: Betsy and James Roosevelt, John Selmes Greenway, Jr., Isabella Greenway, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anna Roosevelt Dall, Martha Ferguson Breasted. Williams, Arizona; September 1932. MS0311 (b214 f3058b)

The John and Isabella Greenway papers at the Arizona Historical Society chronicle the work and life of this remarkable woman, along with the lives and careers of her husbands, Robert Munro Ferguson and John Campbell Greenway, both members of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. The collection spans the 19th and 20th centuries and a myriad of phases in each of their lives.  In these two featured letters from 1934, Greenway articulates her struggle to maintain a work/family life balance, a matter that continues to be of importance (and a topic of national discussion) for politicians and private citizens alike.

Left to right, Isabella Greenway and her sons, Robert Ferguson, Jr., John (Jack) Selmes Greenway, daughter Martha Ferguson Breasted, and Martha’s husband, Charles Breasted, 1933. Photo courtesy Arizona Historical Society, AHS #72380

Left to right, Isabella Greenway and her sons, Robert Ferguson, Jr., John (Jack) Selmes Greenway, daughter Martha Ferguson Breasted, and Martha’s husband, Charles Breasted, June 1933. AHS#72380

As a respected associate of the Roosevelts and an influential stateswoman, Greenway was nominated to join the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission in 1934.  Greenway had developed a close professional relationship with Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum in 1927, when a sculpture of her recently deceased husband, John Greenway, was placed in Statuary Hall at the U. S. Congress. Greenway had successfully lobbied for the State of Arizona to bestow the honor on her husband, and chose Borglum personally to sculpt the statue of Greenway.

In response to her nomination to the Mount Rushmore Commission, Greenway attempted to decline, citing her already full plate of responsibilities as both the sole representative for the state of Arizona and a busy single mother. The letters make clear how important it was to Greenway to be available in the evenings for her young son, Jack, and how seriously she took her responsibilities as a U.S. Representative during a time of extreme economic hardship.

On June 7th, 1934, Greenway wrote to John Boland, Secretary for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission:

AHS_0301

“It has been a great honor to have been appointed on the Rushmore National Memorial Commission. Until I know what the obligations and work are, I will not be able to accept.

Would you be courteous enough to give me an idea of what this service entails? Having the responsibility of the State of Arizona in the House of Representatives is very exacting in these distressing times and allows little margin for outside privileges.

May I hear from you? – and thank you for the trouble of giving me, in detail, what responsibilities fall to the members of the Rushmore National Memorial Commission.”

Over a month later on July 20th, after additional letters from Boland, Greenway was more pointed:

AHS_0313

“I wonder if you have ever been in the position I am. I cannot take on one bit more responsibility and do not wish to accept the position on the Mount Rushmore Commission under these circumstances and obligate someone else to do the work. I cannot go to meetings, etc. on account of my small son, who I hardly ever am away from at night.

If you have members who are purely nominal and who really don’t do anything and if I could be one of these I would be glad to accept with pleasure and will depend on your being perfectly frank with me.

These letters serve to humanize a gifted, ambitious woman who gracefully weathered grief, illness, loss, and war, and dedicated her life to the public good. Greenway’s biographer, Kristie Miller, observes that Greenway’s “strength of character in the face of adversity” impressed people of all walks of life in Arizona, from state leaders to disabled veterans to students. In her correspondence, we see a woman who knew her own limits, who had a strong sense of her priorities, and who did not believe in committing herself to a job that she could not finish.  In a few lines, that strength of character and commitment to a greater purpose is palpable.

In the end, Greenway did accept the position on the Mount Rushmore National Commission after all, serving through the remainder of the 1930s, and the completion of the final figure: Greenway’s friend, Theodore Roosevelt, in 1939.

For a closer look at the photos and documents featured in this blog, browse the image gallery below.

***

The Arizona Historical Society’s library and archives recently collaborated with Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Center Digital Library in North Dakota to curate and digitize over 1,100 pages of materials from the John and Isabella Greenway papers. Decades of correspondence between the Roosevelt and Greenway families, as well as other important historical documents, are now publicly available on the Roosevelt Center’s Digital Library website. To learn more about the digitization effort undertaken by the Theodore Roosevelt Center and to see the over 700 documents from the Arizona Historical Society library and archives collections, please visit:  http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/en/Research/Collections/Arizona-Historical-Society.aspx

Additionally, be sure to visit the newly opened Medal of Honor exhibit at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson. The exhibit includes a letter written by then Rough Rider Theodore Roosevelt to Patty Selmes, mother of Isabella Greenway. For details about the exhibit, please visit: http://www.azmoh.org/

Sources

Miller, K. (2004). Isabella Greenway: An enterprising woman. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Montana Mine Correspondence

22 Nov
I love the letterhead symbol on this one. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Honestly, I just love the letterhead symbol on this one. If you look closely you can see parts of a tank. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Lately I’ve been working my way through the correspondence series of the Montana Mine Collection. The majority of the correspondence, outside of that which is related to the financial business of the mine, is actually from a later period of the mine’s existence, when it was owned by a Mr. Hugo Miller. Most of this is the Miller family’s personal correspondence, offering an interesting insight into the lives of this entrepreneurial southern Arizona family.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Living with a miner is never easy! As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

Miller owned an assay office in Nogales and mined on the side. It was not uncommon in the past for men and women with minds for business and an eye for good opportunities to work a mining claim into their business investments. Even now it’s not unusual for private citizens here in Arizona to have ownership of a small mine in the area that they work on periodically as they have free time. The letter you see below is an excerpt from a letter from Mrs. Gladys Miller to a friend and mentions the reality of living with the sort of jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur of a man that Mr. Miller was. From the excerpt you can tell that the Millers had great business acumen, even taking  boarders in their house to make some extra money. This correspondence suggests that the Miller family was a hard working one.

The letter below was interesting because of the context of the attached newspaper clipping. Again, this is a rare glimpse into the daily realities of living in past times. In this case, wartime rationing takes center stage as a friend, Edna, writes to ask whether the newspaper article is true and then asks her friend, Gladys, to purchase extra Nylons for her! Rationing during wartime meant people had to get creative in their daily lives to continue on as normally as possible. Having a friend who could easily get across the border to purchase stockings in Mexico definitely would have been an advantage. This is just another example of how people worked together and created good relationships during times of hardship.

As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

A clever way to circumvent wartime rationing. As always, if you would like to use any of the photos seen here on the blog please contact ahsref@azhs.gov for information on image reproduction.

These letters are all great examples of how the correspondence in a collection can yield really interesting insights into the past. Whether it’s fun snippets such as these I’ve shared above or more serious historical connections, correspondence is always a treasure trove of historical moments.

Mother’s Day

12 May

This is a special Sunday blog post! Of course we’d only do this sort of thing for a very special person, or in this case a special set of people: Mothers. Today is Mother’s Day! In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May every year. Different countries celebrate Mother’s Day at different times. It all began when a few women, most prominently Julia Ward Howe who called for women (particularly mothers) to rise up and work towards peace in the aftermath of the Civil War and Anna Jarvis who held a celebration of her own mother in 1908. You can read a nice description of the history of Mother’s Day on this page on The National Women’s History Project website.


The ephemera file below is small, but meaningful. It contains information on the Association of Mexican Mothers and Wives here in Tucson. The association started in 1942 and its goal was to make the lives of folks serving in the US Armed Forces a little bit brighter through fundraising, charity efforts, newsletters, and correspondence. The article pictured details their past activities at the time when the remaining members decided to finally disband. These mothers and wives not only raised and cared for their own children, but offered their services throughout their lives to care for others’ children…now grown up and in the US Armed Forces. Their story is a testament to the good mothers do on a daily basis.

And a big Happy Mother’s Day to OUR mothers in California, Colorado, Ohio and Oregon!

Ephemera File-Places-Arizona-Tucson-Organizations-Association of Mexican Mothers and Wives

Ephemera File-Places-Arizona-Tucson-Organizations-Association of Mexican Mothers and Wives