Josephine Brawley Hughes

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Josephine Brawley Hughes

Elizabeth Josephine Brawley Hughes (December 22, 1839 – March 1926) was an advocate of women's rights in the United States West region.

Biography[edit]

Born in a farm near Meadville, Pennsylvania, Brawley was the daughter of John R. Brawley, an important farmer and lawyer of the time.

Brawley did not like her first name of Elizabeth, so she would later refuse to use it or answer to it. She graduated from Edinboro State Normal School, and she became a teacher there for two years.

In 1868, she married Louis C. Hughes, future governor of Arizona. While Louis was fighting at the Civil War, he suffered a wound and was relieved of duty, so he and Josephine moved to Tucson. By that time, they already had a daughter named Gertrude.

Josephine travelled by train to San Francisco, where they boarded a coach that transported them to Tucson. Along the way, the Brawley Hughes were met with several problems: Josephine had already begun pushing for an alcohol abolition law and she was not well liked by many cowboys, so she always carried a rifle with her. During the coach trip from San Francisco to Tucson, she was fearful that her rifle would accidentally shoot itself and injury her baby, because the carriage's horses were travelling very fast.

During one point of that trip, the horses got tired and slammed into the ground, causing baby Gertrude to fall off the coach. She survived, however, by falling on a mountain of sand, which prevented her from suffering injury. Josephine ordered the coach driver to stay still until she could pick her daughter up and make sure the baby was uninjured.

According to some newspapers of the time, she was only the third English-speaking woman to live in Tucson. The place, a dozen years after the Gadsen Purchase, was still a Spanish-speaking community.

Josephine thought that living conditions in Tucson were somewhat inhumane, and she soon bought over candles from Pennsylvania, which she used for her home as well as for neighbors' homes, to provide adequate lighting to her street. She also ordered the construction of a water cistern, which many believe to be the first one in Arizona, on the belief that the water sold at Tucson's streets during those days was unsanitary.

In 1874, son John Brawley was born, followed by daughter Josephine in 1877. She had another baby; her third daughter died shortly after birth, and Josephine resolved to have her buried on the Hughes' front yard. She was afraid that her baby's corpse would be eaten by coyotes if buried at the local cemetery.

Louis Hughes was enjoying a prosperous career as a lawyer by then, and his success led the Hughes to gain social importance in Tucson. Many famous men and women of the West visited them, including the general Nelson Miles in 1886. Miles directed battles against the apaches from the Hughes' dining room.

In 1873, Louis became superintendent of schools in Tucson; his wife later convinced him to open the first school for girls in the area. Josephine served as the school's first teacher.

She was also a Christian, and helped create Tucson's first Protestant church, the Congregational Church in downtown Tucson. She later became a Methodist. Josephine was raised as a Methodist, however, the Methodists would not bring a minister to the wilds of Arizona, until later years. As soon as she was able to gain the acceptance of the Methodist church to bring a Methodist minister to Tucson, she immediately changed her church membership.

Frances W. Willard, president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, came as a speaker to the Congregational Church, and a WCTU chapter opened in Tucson, with Josephine as the first president of the organization. Willard and Brawley Hughes became friends, and toured the area to set up chapters. They spoke to men and women about the values of sobriety in society and about God. Willard and Brawley Hughes helped many convert into Christianity.

In 1884, the organization began pushing for whiskey sales to be banned during election days, and for a law forbidding boys under 16 to be allowed into saloons. The WCTU's efforts helped for laws to be passed against alcohol being sold on Sundays, and for an abolition law, which began on January 1 of 1915.

In 1893, Louis Hughes became Arizona's governor, and the Hughes family opened Arizona's first daily newspaper, "The Arizona Daily Star". Josephine used her articles at the Star to oppose alcoholism and to express her feminist views, encouraging ladies to wear long skirts.

Saloon ads were not allowed on the Star. While Louis was out of town on a business trip to the East coast, he appointed R.A. Caples to run the newspaper. Unaware of the paper's stand against alcoholism and establishments that sold alcohol, Caples allowed a saloon to advertise on the newspaper. In Caples' own words, "The first paper (Josephine) saw (with the ad), she came down and gave me the Devil".

In 1891. Brawley Hughes convinced Laura M. Johns to visit Arizona, and together, they formed the Arizona Suffrage Association, which lobbied for women to be able to find jobs and to vote.

By 1890, John Hughes, who would later become a senator, was already into helping his mother improve women rights. At the national convention of suffrage of that year, Susan B. Anthony, a friend of Brawley Hughes, grabbed him and named him the "suffrage knight of Arizona". Anthony's action proved prophetic: as senator, John proved important in granting women rights to vote and hold jobs.

Louis Hughes abandoned his post as Arizona governor amid rumors of corruption, and he sold the newspaper in 1907. Josephine suffered these events greatly. Her son John's death at the age of 47 in 1921 further added to her suffering. Many believe that the rumors of corruption started when Theodore Roosevelt asked Louis Hughes to be at the christening of the USS Arizona, and he and Josephine refused to attend, because they would be serving liquor.

Josephine Brawley Hughes suffered a fall at her daughter Gertrude's home in 1925, leaving her crippled. No longer with the strength she possessed as a youth, she died shortly after.

The Arizona state capitol building, located in Phoenix, honored her with a bronze plaque that is located on the building's rotunda.

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