Isabella Selmes Ferguson Greenway  (b. 1886, d. 1953)
Isabella Greenway
Isabella Greenway became Arizona's first Congresswoman, serving from 1933 to 1936. In addition to being a political leader, she founded a furniture factory to provide work for disabled World War I veterans. When the 1929 stock market crash stopped furniture sales, she built the Arizona Inn in Tucson, and used the furniture there. It eventually became a nationally known resort hotel.

Region: Tucson and Southern Arizona
Theme: Women in Political Life and Government/Women at Work

Isabella Greenway became Arizona's first Congresswoman, winning election in 1933. Greenway had gained political experience serving as Democratic National Committeewoman and delegate to the national conventions in 1928 and 1932. She also played a decisive role in Franklin D. Roosevelt's nomination to the presidency in 1932, seconding his nomination. When she ran in 1933, she had the support of newly elected President Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, who was a close personal friend of Greenway.

Greenway secured her seat in Congress through a special election during the early, poverty-stricken days of the Depression. She used her position to work for New Deal reforms, including projects to improve Arizona's economy and provide employment. She pushed for copper codes that would protect the copper industry; expanded irrigation and flood control projects in Nogales and on the Verde River; lobbied for increased funding to build and improve roads in Arizona, while also working for health relief for transient families. She remained in Congress from 1933 to 1936 when she decided against pursuing a third term.

Isabella Greenway's personal life was both complicated and full. She first came to the Southwest in 1910 when she moved to New Mexico with her two children and husband, Robert Ferguson, who was ill with tuberculosis. A former Rough Rider, Ferguson died in 1922. A year later, Isabella married Ferguson's friend, another Rough Rider, John Greenway, who owned mines in Arizona and Mexico. Isabella and John Greenway had one child together before his untimely death in 1926. Isabella's marriage to Greenway brought her to Arizona, and she remained in the state following his death.

In addition to politics, Greenway had several other interests. Following World War I, she founded a furniture factory in Tucson to provide productive employment for veterans. In 1929, as the stock market crashed, the factory faced financial difficulties. Greenway decided to build the Arizona Inn, both as a business venture and as a place to use all of the furniture produced by the veterans. The Arizona Inn opened in 1930, with a main building and four cottages, accommodating 45 to 50 guests. This Inn has remained open since then, still featuring furniture produced by the World War I veterans. The Inn employs a master craftsman who has continued to create furniture for guest rooms, dining rooms and public spaces.

For more information, see the following:

Johnson, James. Arizona Politicians: The Notable and the Notorious. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.

Miller, Kristie. Isabella Greenway: An Enterprising Woman. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004.

Photo Credits:
Isabella Greenway - Courtesy of Arizona Historical Society, Tucson


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