Early Stages of Organizational Development:
The Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail (AWHT) was launched in the late fall of 2005. Exploratory meetings were held with various groups to inform these pertinent representatives of the AWHT vision along with seeking advice and planning for the organizational structure. Mary Melcher joined me as a historian and the first coordinating council along with the most important scholars’ and researchers’ board was organized. It took the rest of 2005 and all of 2006 to plan the functions of each board and recruit each member adhering to the necessary ethnic representation, age, and statewide geographic distribution. For the scholars, we needed specialists from history, public history, women’s history, women and gender studies, libraries, preservation, archival records, anthropology, museums, tribal government administration and cultural centers, and academic administration.
The ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences administration was contacted to see if there would have interest in assisting AWHT in some manner. After several meetings the university administration agreed to a real “first!” Together we formed a collaboration in which ASU Foundation would provide fiscal services for AWHT and allow AWHT to use the university tax exempt number through the developmental years. This was a major step in maintaining AWHT sustainability and in assuring staffing assistance for such a volunteer organization. These services were pledged for only the next few developmental years, therefore AWHT moved toward permanent status with official bylaws, new officers taking the place of the charter administration in 2013. This community outreach project proved essential for the astounding growth and impact in Arizona women’s history made by the AWHT.
Experienced beneficial support was obtained through key women’s organizations such as the Business and Professional Women of Arizona, American Association of University Women of Arizona, state agencies including the Governors Division on Women and Children, YWCA of Maricopa County, Arizona State Library/Public Records and Archives Department, Historic Preservation, Office of Tourism, and the Arizona Capitol Museum, AWHT was whole heartedly welcomed throughout the state
Other important, founding supporters included private/public associations such as the Arizona Humanities Council, Arizona Historical Society, Sharlot Hall Museum, YWCA of Maricopa county, the Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the History department and division of Public History of ASU and the Women and Gender Studies departments from ASU, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University. Most essential to AWHT development was the representative support from tribal government leaders of the various American Indian Tribes along with the Inter-Tribal Council, Inc. National founding supporters included the National Collaborative of Women’s Historic Sites, the National Women’s History Project, and the National Park Service.
State Government Blessing:
From the early stages of determining to found AWHT, the concept included plans for a private and non-political non-profit organization. Yet, it was necessary to include state government awareness and support. In terms of image, and in obtaining state government approval, I contacted the then current governor. Former Governor Janet Napolitano, who had supported women’s history and other women’s issues, enthusiastically agreed to serve as the charter Honorary Chair. Following her departure, Janice Brewer, current governor, on behalf of state government, accepted the Honorary Chair position.
AWHT Council and Scholars’ Board:
The scholars’ and researchers’ board attended several important organizational meetings. We thank these scholars and researchers for the mission statement, goals and objectives, criteria for designating the women for the virtual website trail, and for conducting research these past years locating remarkable and visionary women, designating them and assisting with the text writing. Dr. Melcher as AWHT historian coordinated this board, and wrote most of the texts used on our website. She and all scholars participated in research and in providing the expertise for designations. AWHT credibility was achieved through this distinguished group.
Meanwhile, the Coordinating Council organized an executive committee, the working standing committee, consisting of the director, historian, and elected officers. The executive committee developed a working document entitled “Policies and Procedures for the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail”. It was determined to not prepare bylaws until the organization was moved into permanent status. Council members were delighted with the work of the scholars’ board and voted for adoption of the mission statement, criteria for designated women, AWHT goals and objectives, and the policies statement prepared by the executive committee
AWHT charter and developmental founding Council officers included Judith Register, Chair of the AWHT Council Coordinating Council – replaced by Mary Rothschild, Ph.D.; JoAnn Del-Colla, Vice President replaced a few years later by Maria Elena Ochoa. (These two women each served as director of the governor’s division for Women when in office for AWHT); Nancy Dean, Secretary, replaced sometime later by Heidi Osselaer, Ph.D., and the founding director, Joan Meacham served as the chief fiscal officer/Treasurer; Mary Melcher, Ph.D., the AWHT historian also served on the Executive Committee.
From 2007 through 2013, a total of $170,000 was obtained through grants, and individual donations. The following granting institutions supported the planning and volunteer recruitment programs to establish AWHT, and then made possible the projects outlined below. Without their support The Women’s Heritage Trail would not have accomplished its goals of expanding community understanding of women’s experiences and contributions in the development of Arizona and the nation.
They are: Arizona Business and Professional Women, Arizona Humanities Council, Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Public Service, Jim Click Automotive Team of Tucson, J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation, Prescott, Salt River Project, Ruth McCormick Tankersley Charitable Trust, University of Arizona Business and Professional Women, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, and Yavapai-Prescott American Indian Tribe. With sincere gratitude, we look forward to continued associations and hope for financial support again in the future.
With respective project funding, AWHT developed two community walking tours, in Tucson and in Prescott, and one city tour in Phoenix, for charted bus or self guided walking/ driving tour. We found that there was too much distance between the historic sites in Phoenix for a walking tour. We also developed a Central Regional Self Guided Driving and a North Central Regional Self Guided Driving Tours. If additional funding had been available, and proposals were written, we had hoped to have regional driving tours for all the regions in Arizona as designated by the office of tourism. We also hoped for walking tours in Flagstaff and Yuma. One major deterrent was the dire financial situation the country was experiencing. Most non-profits such as AWHT suffered greatly reduced funding.
Some of the AWHT Projects:
A primary highlight during these early years was our statehood centennial traveling exhibition entitled “How Splendid is our Past.” The Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor served as Honorary Chair of the exhibition which traveled over three years to rural and metropolitan areas. The venues consisted of museums, colleges, community heritage centers, historic sites, and libraries. Each venue administrator commended AWHT for a popular and informative public educational exhibit. Respective statistics showed that the venues were enjoyed by larger numbers of visitors than each institution usually hosted; in addition, the attendees gave favorable evaluations, many commenting that they had no idea of the diversity of contributions, ethnic representation, and of the noteworthy accomplishments women had made. Most commended the graphics and suggested more such projects. We still receive requests for the exhibit; in fact, the graphics will be exhibited at the Tucson YWCA in Tucson, March, 2014, women’s history month. This project was funded by Office of Tourism, AZ Humanities Council, and APS.
Another exciting and successful project was the woman suffrage play presented by AWHT through grants provided by the Arizona Humanities Council and the Arizona Public Service. The play entitled “Votes for Women: Pros and Cons” was the historic portrayal of the political strategies and successful lobbying accomplished by Arizona women and some men who advocated for women’s right to vote. All pro and con arguments were highlighted along with the successful legislation which was passed after years of struggle, shortly following Arizona gaining statehood in 1912. Therefore, it was the centennial of woman suffrage in 1912 also! The play, which was written by Dr. Mary Melcher, the AWHT historian, was informative and educational but also entertaining. We again, had all positive reviews.
The play was so well received we are offering it to women’s organizations and other non-profit groups for a $200.00 donation. It has been presented by a DAR chapter since the statehood 2012 centennial year. We understand it was quite successful. It can be obtained through our website.
AWHT participated in conferences, continued expanding the website,sponsored a speaker’s bureau comprised of AWHT officers, and distributed AWHT informational materials and/or women’s history brochures and documents regularly. The organization was a legacy program throughout the statehood centennial year. Several power point presentations were made to women’s organizations and community groups throughout the state. Our presence became known throughout Arizona. We had actually exceeded our expectations even with the lack of adequate funding.
Current AWHT Officers:
The current officers are now Christine Marin, Ph.D., President, Denise Lundin, Vice President; Melissa Guy, Secretary, and Carrie Gustavson, Treasurer.
Arizona Women’s History Alliance:
There is now a newly formed non-profit and tax exempt organization which is totally dedicated to the expansion of Arizona women’s history and to the support of its two affiliates, the Arizona women’s Hall of Fame, and the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail, along with any non-profit groups planning or executing projects in women’s history.
As an affiliate of the Arizona Women’s History Alliance, the AWHT will collaborate with this organization and others to coordinate women’s history public educational programs, cooperate on activities as a stronger voice by banding together, and economize by sharing in expenses. Each of the two affiliates will have separate identities and goals, but will gain combined activities and a more persuasive vice in fund raising. The Alliance will serve as the fiscal officer for the affiliates and their tax exempt number may be used by AWHT and AzWHOF. We are very excited about the positive prospects this new collaboration promises!
A Glimpse into the Future:
As has been announced, the first major project of the Alliance will be to sponsor the forthcoming and first statewide symposium totally dedicated to Arizona women’s history. Mark your calendars and join us on March 28 and 29th until 1:00 PM. We will announce our exciting speakers and panelists soon! The symposium is entitled “Arizona Women Hiding in Plain Sight.” It will be held in the Phoenix area, location soon to be announced. We plan to discuss the state of women’s history in Arizona and to plan “where do we go from here?” The goal is to stimulate the audience to think about and participate in discussions of the contributions and experiences of Arizona women from all walks of life to our state’s history.
Other future plans for AWHT is to continue expanding our website, adding women as designated by the scholars’ board, increasing the site additional research materials and scholarly women’s history articles. We will collaborate with organizations in providing conferences and workshops, and in disseminating public educational materials when appropriate..
It is an exciting time in Arizona women’s history and in all women’s history! According to historians and authors Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil in “Through a Woman’s Eyes,” which challenges the separation of “women’s history” from what students of today think and label “real history,” should write and provide inclusive views of Arizona women and their historical experiences, not only concentrating on privileged white women, rather by bringing more ethnic and racial minority women and girls from any outside margins to the center of our historical analysis.
As expressed in the preface of their book, DuBois and Dumenil encourage students and historians alike to write and provide inclusive views of Arizona women and their historical experiences, not only concentrating on white privileged women but rather by bringing more ethnic and racial minority women and girls from any outside margins to the center of our historical analysis. May AWHT continue adhering to these observations and continue to expand Arizona Women’s History in context of our state history!
Few resources were available since women’s history was just beginning, when “America through Women’s Eyes in 1933” by Mary Ritter Beard, the founding Mother of women’s history, was published. Her clear message was that U.S. history was inaccurate because it did not include women’s history. She strongly recommended merging women’s history into U.S. history. As is often said, we have come a long way however have a long way to go as well!
Mary Melcher and I have resigned as the AWHT historian and founding director. We are still volunteering for the council and scholars’ boards and will be working with the new officers to meet these challenges. We look forward to even greater strides in the expansion of Arizona women’s history.