Roberta Clayton Flake, who was a pioneer of the LDS Church, began her personal quest to publish women’s stories from the historical shift of late 19th-century expansion by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After 33 years of interviewing, and gathering over 200 sketches, she self-published the first edition of “Pioneer Women of Arizona” in 1969.
Recently, a revised and expanded second edition of her work was published by Brigham Young University Religious Studies, in conjunction with Deseret Book.
Catherine H. Ellis and David F. Boone helmed the revisions and updating of the second edition. The book focuses on women who helped shape Arizona in its infancy. Even today, with air conditioning, the state isn’t for the faint of heart. It also explores their journeys around the western part of the United States.
Expanding upon Clayton’s work, Ellis and Boone have meticulously combed through the sketches to add countless footnotes and references. This edition also offers a biographical sketch of Clayton herself, who died in 1981, and her work with the Federal Writers’ Project.
Hundreds of photos add great depth to the sketches. Information and maps about the Latter-day Saint migration to Arizona also provide valuable context.
The book is truly an empowering compendium of over 200 sketches and memories of both LDS and non-LDS pioneer women. Some of the sketches are autobiographical, some are written by descendants and some were written by Clayton. These sketches bring the abstract concept of pioneer women to life with their stories of trials, heartache, loss, joy, happiness and faith. These women were critical to the success and livelihood of their families, settlements and towns.
This second edition holds true to Clayton’s original dedication, which she dedicated “to the descendants of the noble women who pioneered the West, I loving dedicate the 33 years of research which has gone into the compilation of cherished records of accomplishment.”
Emily Howsley is enjoying her adventures in the wild blue yonder of Texas.