Prescott Women Shopkeepers   
Madame Hunter, the only known Black woman
entrepreneur in Prescott at the time, ran a hat shop
at 134 N. Cortez St. in the early 1900s.
Women in Prescott left their mark with many businesses in the downtown area but were especially prominent in running dress stores and millinery shops. From the 1890s to the 1930s, at any given time there were four or five women running their own dress or millinery shops in the downtown area, bounded roughly by Cortez, Will, Gurley and Granite streets.

Region: North Central Arizona
Theme: Women at Work

Mrs. W.H. Hunter, also known as Madame Hunter, had her own millinery (or hat) shop at 134 N. Cortez Street. The only known Black woman entrepreneur in Prescott at the time, she also provided beauty services -including manicures - and sold dresses, ribbons, collars and mother-of-pearl buttons. Dora Rosenthal, a German Jewish immigrant, widowed in her 20s and with two young children, ran her own dress shop, stocking silks, notions, hats, umbrellas and coats at 226 W. Gurley Street. Although women shopkeepers had a difficult time obtaining credit or accumulating capital to open their own shops, these women overcame many obstacles to run successful stores.

While clothes could be mass-produced, many women liked to personalize their hats, and milliners like Agnes Todd, Annie Heine, Katie Bishop and Madame Hunter all ran their own hat shops in the 1910s in Prescott. A proprietress had to travel to business centers in the East and on the West Coast to buy her merchandise - usually basic hats plus ribbons, plumes and other trimmings - and to review the latest styles. Then she returned to her shop where she created individually designed pieces for her clients. Hats could be updated with new trimmings when styles changed, and other accessories, like lace collars, could be purchased from milliners.

Married women had an easier time opening a shop because their husbands could obtain credit. Mrs. Annie Heine was a partner with her husband in running the Heine Hotel at 143 N. Cortez Street. This allowed her to open her own millinery shop next to the hotel. Kitty Bishop was married to George Bishop who ran a secondhand store downtown, and she opened up the West End Millinery Shop next door to his shop in the 1910s. Neither Annie nor Kitty had any children which allowed them to work long hours in their stores.

For more information, see Nancy Burgess, A Photographic Tour of 1916 Prescott, Arizona.

Photo Credits:
Madame Hunter - Courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum


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