Isabella Greenway King
Isabella was born into a family that had wealth, fame and social standing. Nevertheless, her life was not an easy one; each corner she turned in life was marked by personal tragedy. She was born Isabella Selmes on March 22, 1886 in Boone, Ky. Her father, Tolden R. Selmes, was not a healthy man, so when Isabella was still a young girl, the family moved to a North Dakota horse-and-sheep ranch co-owned by her father and Theodore Roosevelt. Isabella attended Chapin School for Girls in New York City, where she became close friends with Roosevelt's niece Eleanor. In 1905 she was a bridesmaid in the New York wedding of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Not long after that, Isabella herself was married to a former Rough Rider, Robert Ferguson, who came from a wealthy and titled Scottish family. The couple had two children. With a family and a home in New York, Isabella must have thought her life was set. But in 1910 history repeated itself for her. Just as she and her parents had been forced to leave Kentucky because of her father's health, the Fergusons had to move to New Mexico; Robert Ferguson had contracted Tuberculosis.
The family homesteaded near Tryon and Isabella became active in state affairs, chairing the Women's Land Army of New Mexico in 1918. Three years later, Robert Ferguson died, and Isabella moved her children to Santa Barbara California. There she met an old friend of Robert's and anotehr former Rough Rider, John Greenway. They were married in 1922 and Greenway, who managed the New Cornelia copper mine in Ajo, Arizona, moved his family there. Greenway had developed a new method of refining copper that made copper mining more profitable. He was a wealthy and prominent man, one who could provide a comfortable life for Isabella and the children, including their son, John F. Greenway. Unfortunately, tragedy again struck Isabella's life. In 1926, four years after they were married, Greenway died in New York from complications after surgery. Once more Isabella was left a widow.
Moving to Tucson with her children, Isabella turned her energy to business, operating the Double X Ranch near Williams and Gilpin Airlines, based in Los Angeles. In 1934 she built the Arizoan Inn, an elegant Tucson resort often vistied by the wealthy, the great and the famous. With her wealth, political connections and business acumen, she was naturally drawn to Arizona politics. She was elected to Congress in 1933 to fill Lewis W. Douglas' unexpired term. She was re-elected for a second term by an overwhelming majority. During her years in Washington, D.C., she was instrumental in obtaining protection for the U.S. copper industry from foreign producers whose low prices had forced the shutdown of some American mines. She worked to secure public health relief for transient families, fought cutbacks in veterans' benefits, and, with the New Deal funds, saw that homes were found for destitute families in Phoenix, Mesa, and Casa Grande. By 1936 Isabella was tired, however, and decided against a third congressional term in favor of going home to Tucson. She married Harry O. King in 1939, and the couple made their home in New York City, returning to Tucson for occupational visits with her children. It was on those visits in 1953 that Isabella Greenway King died on December 18 at the age of 67."
Excerpt from Arizona
Women Hall of Fame 1987:
Tod, Diane and Crowe, Rosalie. Arizona Women's Hall of Fame 1987. Arizona Historical Society, Central Arizona Division Phoenix, Ariz. : pp. 15-16
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress- Isabella Greenway
How Did The First Congress Woman of Arizona, Isabella Greenway, Influence
Old Age Pension Programs that lead to the Social Security Act of 1935?
by Kristi Dixon
Women in Tucson History; 1890-1920 by Tracy Ruffing
The Lack Of Women in Arizona Politics, Specifically the United States
Congress By Kelly Gordon
History of the Arizona Inn, built by Isabella Greenway (1927)
The Greenway House
Political Graveyard- Isabella Greenway
Isabella Greenway : Arizona's first congresswoman / by Betty Morrison.
LD179.15 1977 .M67
Arizona Women Hall of Fame
F 810 .C75x
If you would like to know more about the author of this site, Jeffrey Scott, feel free to visit his homepage.
In addition, if you have any questions about this site or Arizona History, feel free to e-mail Jeffrey