Celebrating Arizona’s most honorable women

Every year since 1987, the president of the United States has designated the month of March as Women’s History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the role women have played in the political, economic and cultural advancement of the nation.

President Jimmy Carter was the first to respond to petitions by the National Women’s History Project — now known as the National Women’s History Alliance — for national recognition, and in February 1980 Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation,” Carter said in his proclamation. “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

On March 4, 2019, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a proclamation declaring March as Women’s History Month in Arizona.

“From the first woman United States Supreme Court Justice to the most women governors of any state in the nation, Arizona boasts a rich history of women leaders and trailblazers,” Ducey said. “This March, we celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to the prosperity of our state and nation and recognize their strength, resilience and courage.”

In 1979, Gov. Bruce Babbitt worked with the Arizona Women’s Commission to create the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame, and the first inductees were introduced in October 1981. The Hall of Fame has a permanent exhibit at the Carnegie Center in Phoenix.

For Women’s History Month, CBN looked back at just a few of the most notable women in the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.

Rachel Emma Allen Berry, 1859-1948

Rachel Emma Allen Berry arrived in Arizona Territory in 1882 from Utah when she was just 23 years old. Berry and her husband, William, settled in St. Johns in the northeastern part of the state. Their home was the first brick house in Apache County, where the couple raised seven children.

Berry was an active suffragette, joining a multitude of Mormon women and other advocates in the fight. They were successful: Arizona men voted for Arizona women’s right to vote in November 1912, and the governor signed it into law the next month.

Berry soon became one of the first women in the U.S. to be elected to the state legislature, joining the Arizona House of Representatives in 1915 to represent all of Apache County. She went on to advocate for the adoption of Arizona’s flag — the same one used today — and fight for education, child welfare and public health..

Berry was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

Louise Foucar Marshall, 1864-1956

You might recognize the name Marshall, especially if you live in Tucson and have passed the Marshall Building at the University of Arizona, named for Louise Foucar Marshall.

Marshall was born in Boston in 1864 to immigrant parents from Germany, well-educated and well-traveled by the time she reached adulthood. She excelled in her career as a real estate investor, but she found her true calling in education.

Marshall advocated for young women to be able to attend college, and in the dwindling years of the 19th century she moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona. In 1900, a position became open at the university and Marshall became the school’s first female professor at just 36 years old.

Always the businesswoman, Marshall bought and developed land in Tucson in the early 20th century to lease, using the proceeds to fund scholarships for college students. Marshall went on to found a nonprofit corporation known as the Marshall Charitable Foundation in 1930 to serve the needs of organizations in Pima County, and the organization still exists today as the Marshall Foundation.

Marshall was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Polly Rosenbaum, 1899-2003

Polly Rosenbaum — born Edwynne Cutler in Iowa in 1899 — graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science before moving to Arizona and settling in the mining town of Hayden. During the Great Depression, she took a secretarial job at the state capitol, where she met her husband: Gila County Representative William “Rosey” Rosenbaum, who later served as the Speaker of the House.

When her husband died in 1949, Rosenbaum assumed his seat and remained in office until 1994. She was the longest-serving member of the state legislature in Arizona history.

Rosenbaum campaigned for a number of causes during her time at the state legislature, including education, public libraries and historic Archive preservation.

For years she advised the state to build an archives building, and when a new one opened in 2008 it was appropriately named the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building. The Arizona Educational Foundation also holds an annual writing contest in her name.

Rosenbaum was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sister Kathleen Clark, 1919-2003

Sister Kathleen Clark is more than just a historic Arizona figure — she’s a national treasure.

Early in her career, Sister Kathleen worked as a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson. There, she noticed the abysmal circumstances of abused and neglected infants, toddlers and children; she realized they needed her help.

Sister Kathleen ultimately promoted, founded and led a new nonprofit child-welfare organization called Casa de los Niños, rallying the local community to donate time, money, formula and even the organization’s first building.

Within a year after they began in November 1973, Sister Kathleen and her volunteer staff had served 325 one- to three-year-olds. By the time it was able to open an additional center for older children in 1978, the organization had helped more than 3,100 children, and in its first 30 years of existence more than 32,000 children stayed at the facility.

Casa de los Niños soon became one of the largest crisis care nurseries in the nation, and its work continues today.

Sister Kathleen was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

Sandra Day O’Connor, 1930-Present

Sandra Day O’Connor grew up at the Lazy B, a family cattle ranch in Duncan, Arizona. Early in life, she developed a strong work ethic; she woke up at 5:00 a.m. every day, rode horses before she could walk and learned to drive the farm pickup truck by 12 years old.

O’Connor attended Stanford University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and graduated second in her class from Stanford Law School. Despite her hard-working spirit and her legal acumen, O’Connor faced a constant uphill battle breaking into a field dominated by men.

O’Connor didn’t let anything stop her; she became a member of Maricopa County Young Republicans and joined Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. The ambitious lawyer pursued private practice in Maryvale before serving as assistant Attorney General of Arizona.

In 1969, O’Connor was elected to the Arizona Senate and eventually became majority leader, the first woman in the country to hold the position. She was elected as a Maricopa County Superior Court judge before being appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in Phoenix in 1979.

In July 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to fill Justice Potter Stewart’s vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate unanimously confirmed O’Connor, and she was sworn in as the first female justice in the nation’s history on Sept. 25, 1981.

O’Connor was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame as a Living Legacy in 2015.

The Hall of Fame has inducted more than 100 women since 1981, and many more are sure to come. Stay tuned!

Graham Bosch

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