Posted on January 2, 2016

By Brenda Taylor

Later this month, the Sharlot Hall Museum will host a panel discussion regarding the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden and unveil its new exhibit, The Rose Garden Discovery Kiosk.  This exhibit will usher the Museum into the 21st century using a touch screen computer that will display hundreds of Arizona women’s biographies who prepared the way for others to homestead, work and just live life in the “wild west” territory.

Why is this particular exhibit so important?  Sharlot Hall Museum is one of the few museums in Arizona, possibly America, which contains a collection of biographies, stories and research regarding women.  The SHM Library and Archives has for decades collected this information for future generations to learn about the native and pioneering women who aided in the founding and settlement of what eventually became the State of Arizona.

In 1938, Evelyn Perkins, a ranching wife from the Chino Valley area and a member of the Yavapai Cowbelles, came up with the idea of planting flowers as a civic endeavor.  She suggested to Eva Favour, then president of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, that a memorial rose garden be established on the grounds honoring pioneer women.  For those of you who do not know, the Yavapai Cowbelles is an auxiliary to the Yavapai Cattle Growers Association, which provides education about cattle growing in and out of the classroom.  They promote friendly, social relations among cattle people and cooperate for the best interest of the cattle industry and community.

Perkins’ idea came to fruition in 1948, when Dorothy McMullen was asked to come up with a design for the garden, which was presented and voted on by the Museum’s Board.  McMullen, with the help of her sister in-law Bessie McMullen, Millie Ogg, Dr. Florence Yount, Cappy Bozarth and members of the Prescott Garden Club and Alta Vista Garden Club began actual physical work on the garden.  Later, more labor and money was donated when the Yavapai Cowbelles, along with the Arizona State Garden Federation, stepped in to give their support to the garden project.

By the 1950s, 120 donated rose bushes, representing thirty different varieties, graced the Museum grounds just south of the Governor’s Mansion.  In addition, the garden was adopted by the Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs as the “Historical Garden of Arizona.”  Originally, each donated rose bush had a marker with an individual woman’s name to be remembered, the date she entered Arizona, the name of the donor and the name of the rose.

During the 1960s, the Yavapai Cowbelles organization donated a glass-enclosed memorial chart listing the Yavapai Cowbelles members honored in the rose garden with Nancy Bozarth conducting the dedication service.  During this same time, the Rose Garden roses were winning ribbons at the Yavapai County Fair.  According to a 1963 chronology entry “Roses won 28 firsts, 5 seconds, 3 thirds and 2 fourths . . . [with] Elva Breckenridge [making] the selections.”

As the project grew in popularity, logistically it became impossible to maintain the original concept of a specially selected rose for each woman.  In 1974, the Garden was relocated to its present site on the north side of the Governor’s Mansion to make way for the new Lawler Exhibit and Visitor’s Center.  At this time, museum volunteers Sylvia Neely and Dawn Dollard took on the task of researching all the women commemorated in the garden and wrote each woman’s initial biography.

Today, over 400 women are honored as a group by the entire rose garden, which contains rose bushes beautifully maintained by Ground Supervisor Steve Whitley and his team of volunteer gardeners.  Each woman’s biography and research information is in the Rose Garden Collection housed within the SHM Library & Archives, along with other families’ papers and photo collections.  These combined resources comprise a unique collection of Arizona women’s history.

Come join us at the Sharlot Hall Museum on Saturday, January 23, at 1pm for a FREE panel discussion and unveiling of the new interactive exhibit.  The discussion will highlight the Garden’s history and the varied lives and stories of some of its honorees.  Directly after the discussion, the Discovery Kiosk will be unveiled, allowing guests access to the women’s biographies and photos, as well as children’s games, via the electronic touch screen.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.