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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/