Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published February 17, 2002.)
Q: Is Greenway Road named for someone or is the name meant to be descriptive? Most of it doesn’t seem very green, although it does have some nice parts.
A: Well, even the dullest and drabbest of us do have some nice parts, don’t you think? Greenway Road is named for Gen. John C. Greenway, a World War I hero and mining magnate. There is a statue of him in the old Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. He was, as noted, a war hero and big shot, but the street could have just as easily have been named for his wife, Isabella S. Greenway, one of the most remarkable women in Arizona history.
She was born in 1886 in Kentucky and grew up wealthy in Manhattan. She was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and her girlhood friend Eleanor Roosevelt, and gave the seconding speech for FDR at the Democratic National Convention in 1932.
She came West with her first husband, a former Rough Rider named Robert H. Munro Ferguson, who suffered from tuberculosis. He died in 1922, and she married Greenway, an old flame. He died two years later, and Isabella took over his vast business holdings.
In 1935, Greenway was the first Arizona woman elected to Congress, where she served two terms. In Depression-era Congress, she championed issues benefiting mines, ranchers and cotton growers. She also brought three New Deal resettlement projects to the state and pestered the Public Health Service until they came to the aid of 60 transient families camped under the Central Avenue bridge in Phoenix.
Outside the political arena, she was the founder of Tucson’s fabled Arizona Inn, owned a huge ranch near Williams, opened a birth control clinic in Tucson over the objections of the Roman Catholic Church, owned a commercial airline and ran a company that employed disabled veterans. She was, in short, no slouch. She died in Tucson in 1953.