Isabella Greenway

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Isabella Greenway

Isabella Selmes Ferguson Greenway King (born March 22, 1886, Boone County, Kentucky; died December 18, 1953, Tucson, Arizona) is best known as the first U.S. congresswoman in Arizona history, and as the founder of the Arizona Inn of Tucson. During her life she was also noted as a one-time owner and operator of Los Angeles, Calif.-based Gilpin Air Lines, a speaker at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, and a bridesmaid at the wedding of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt. [1]

Early life[edit]

Isabella Selmes was born March 22, 1886, the daughter of Tilden Russell Selmes and Martha "Patty" Macomb Flandrau. Tilden Selmes was general counsel for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Patty Flandrau was the daughter of Charles Eugene Flandrau, a Minnesota judge and politician; it was at the farm of Patty's maternal aunt Julia Dinsmore in Kentucky that Isabella was born. Tilden Selmes was the co-owner of a ranch in North Dakota with Theodore Roosevelt, and Isabella spent her early life on that ranch. After the untimely death of her father in 1895, Isabella and her mother lived with various members of her mother's family in Kentucky, Minnesota, and New York. Isabella attended schools in New York City, where she met and became lifelong friends with Roosevelt's niece, Eleanor.

First and Second Marriages[edit]

In 1905, Isabella was one of Eleanor's bridesmaids when Eleanor married Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shortly thereafter, while the Roosevelts were on their honeymoon, Isabella married Robert Munro-Ferguson, the younger brother of Ronald Munro-Furguson. Robert was a family friend of the Roosevelts, as well as one of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Robert and Isabella became the godparents of Franklin and Eleanor's only daughter, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Three years into the marriage, Robert contracted tuberculosis and in 1910 the couple moved to the dry climate of New Mexico, hoping his health would improve. There Isabella nursed her husband and educated their two children, Robert, Jr. and Martha. During this period, Isabella and Eleanor established a close correspondence that continued for the rest of their lives.

After Robert's death in 1922, Isabella married a close friend, Col. John Campbell Greenway, another of Roosevelt's Rough Riders, whom she had met in 1911. John moved the family to a ranch in Arizona near Bisbee where he was manager of the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company. Later the family moved to Ajo where Isabella and John's son, John Selmes ("Jack") Greenway, was born in 1924. In 1926, John died suddenly, following surgery, leaving Isabella a widow once again.

Isabella and her three children moved to Williams, Arizona, and bought a ranch there as she and John had planned, the Quarter Circle Double X Ranch. Through smart business dealings and the sale of her mining stock at the top of its value ahead of the market crash, Isabella was able to grow the ranch to over 130,000 acres (530 km2). During the same period, she also became the owner and operator of Los Angeles-based Gilpin Airlines.

Activism and Politics[edit]

Isabella's political interests and social activism paralleled the interests of her friend Eleanor. During the First World War she developed and directed a network of southwest women who farmed while the men were overseas. During the late 1920s she opened Arizona Hut, a furniture factory employing disabled veterans and their immediate families. In 1928 she became Arizona's Democratic national committeewoman, and in 1932 she campaigned heavily for Franklin Roosevelt. She made one of the speeches seconding his nomination at the 1932 Democratic National Convention.

Greenway, a Democrat, was elected as Arizona's sole Representative to the 73rd Congress in 1932 to complete the unexpired term of resigning Rep. Lewis W. Douglas, who had been appointed the U.S director of the budget. She won reelection in 1934. On her fiftieth birthday she announced that she was retiring from public office. There was some expectation that had she run in the 1936 election, she would have been unopposed in both the primary and general elections.

Though she broadly supported New Deal legislation during her terms in Congress, she demonstrated her political independence by breaking with the President over some issues of concern to veterans, an important part of her political base in Arizona. She opposed legislation to reduce the pensions of World War I servicemen, funds for which FDR planned to shift to fund economic recovery programs. She also opposed some provisions of the Social Security Act, which she believed would be impossible to implement in the long term.

Later life[edit]

In 1939 she married one-time tool manufacturer Harry O. King, a former National Recovery Administration manager for the copper industry, and then-president of the Institute of Applied Economics in New York. During this marriage, Isabella spent part of her time in New York and part in Tucson.

She died on December 18, 1953 in Tucson at the Arizona Inn, which she had founded in 1930. She is buried on the Dinsmore Homestead in Kentucky where she had been born.

In Phoenix, Greenway Road and several public schools are named for her.

References[edit]

“Isabella Selmes Greenway” in Women in Congress, 1917-1990. Prepared under the direction of the Commission on the Bicentenary by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991.

"Isabella Greenway King" in the magazine series Arizona Pioneers, in Copper State Journal, Fall 1997. Compiled and edited by Floyd R. Negley.

Beasley, Maurine H. et al., The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia, p 217-8

Miller, Kristie (2004). Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-1897-1. 

Miller, Kristie; McGinnis, Robert H., eds. (2009). A Volume of Friendship: The Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Isabella Greenway, 1904-1953. Tucson, Ariz.: Arizona Historical Society. ISBN 0-910037-50-7. 

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lewis Douglas
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's at-large congressional district

1933 - 1937
Succeeded by
John R. Murdock