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Clara T. Woody: A Woman Ahead of Her Time

This story is about a Globe woman who was ahead of her time. It should have been written decades ago. But this paper did not exist then and I was no more than a twinkle in my dad’s eye.

Clara T. Woody was perhaps the most independent woman in Globe-Miami during her heyday. If you were around Globe-Miami anytime from 1917 onward, perhaps you saw her somewhere around town, donning her cat-eye framed glasses. She was a mother of two, employed first at the county attorney’s office and later in local real estate. On her own accord, however, she became Gila County’s most influential, unofficial historian and archivist. 

“Many books may be written from material Mrs. Woody has gathered through the years,” Frances Gerhardt once wrote of Woody in the Arizona Record (article date unknown). “Her files include data on mining, brands, cemeteries, churches, courthouse[s], dams, fires, floods, early families, deaths, military, pioneer women of Arizona, railroads, schools, Al Seiber, mails, wildlife and many other pertinent facts.”

In an era when women were expected to be homemakers, if Woody wasn’t working, she was out collecting stories, perhaps talking to witnesses or informants of the Tewksbury Fewd or Pleasant Valley War, or visiting Mr. Anderson, a pioneer. A Kansas farm girl herself, Woody was fascinated with Globe’s pioneer history from the moment she arrived to the area.

It all started when Woody relocated to New Mexico in pursuit of a drier climate after developing severe pneumonia and hay fever. She was rebellious from the start, inserts Woody’s daughter Jean Stiles. She attended the New Mexican Agricultural School in Las Cruces. There she taught Mexican children English and learned Spanish. After a stint in California she was still challenged by her physical health, and in 1917 she came to Globe. Soon after she met her future husband, Clarence, from West Virginia. He was camped out on the tailings with the calvary in 1917 to quell the mine strike. They married on Thanksgiving Day of the same year. She traveled with him to Oklahoma and Texas, until the doctor told Woody’s husband he had better relocate her to Arizona and keep her there. He worked for the Old Dominion mine, and later Inspiration mine.

Meanwhile, she found work as a court reporter for the county attorney’s office and began traveling around the county for work.

“She talked about murders, sometimes she viewed the bodies,” recalls Stiles.

It was then, with the encouragement of the state librarian, that she began to collect data on Gila County and interview survivors of the past, documenting their stories. Woody developed a knack for these individuals to open up to her.

“They trusted her with information they would have imparted to nobody else, sometimes exacting a promise that it would not be revealed until they and all others involved were safely dead and buried,” wrote C.L. Sonnichsen in the forward of Woody’s book “Globe, Arizona”. “She was forever digging into old newspapers and court records, visiting the state library, and corresponding with people who might have a scrap of authentic information.”

Needless to say, Woody was excellent at shorthand, Stiles remembers.

It would take 60 years, however, before Woody’s notes, manuscripts and articles were compiled into a published book.

“My mom was a procrastinator in some ways,” her daughter says. “The fun of writing for her was the investigating, she loved interviewing people.”

“She would write the stories down, but to compile a book required someone else to get it done,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Woody certainly left her mark on this region. She was an inductee into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. For a time, Mayor Hank Williams rallied for the county museum, which at the time was owned by Miami Copper Company, to be named after her. For a brief time it was.

But Woody was a modest woman, and didn’t like the idea of her name stamped on the museum. It was soon after changed to the Gila County Historical Museum.Clara T Woody1

She frequently contributed her work to the Arizona Silver Belt, then called the Arizona Record*, and was instrumental in helping other local writers. She served as a member of the board of directors to the Arizona Historical society. She was also extremely active in several organizations; she was president of the Globe Business and Professional Women’s Club, and vice president of the state’s Professional Women’s Club.

“My mother loved politics, she was what I would call a rabid politician,” Stiles says. “When women got the vote she became a democrat, a very staunch democrat.”

“I remember she would go around at night after polls to check and see who was winning,” she adds. “If she could have run for office, she probably would have.”

It just so happened that Woody married a man who supported her all the while.

“My father was a very laid-back man,” Stiles remembers. “Whatever my mother wanted to do, fine.”

Neither Woody or her husband were around much while Stiles and her brother grew up in Globe. He worked in the mines, and was later sent to Wilcox. Around 1928, Woody picked up work for real estate J.J. Keegan, working on insurance policies above what is now Bacon’s Boots and Saddles. As a child growing up in Globe during the ’20s and ’30s, Stiles and her brother often came home from school to babysitters rather than their mother.

“She became the forerunner of women’s lib,” Stiles says. “She didn’t like to be confined to the house.”

“At that time, she stood out in the community,” she adds. “Women weren’t expected to do things like this, they were expected to stay at home, cook, clean and raise babies.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 9.59.59 PMWoody continued to work the same job throughout the Great Depression. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to get by.

“We may not have had a lot of material things, but we always had books and magazines. Mother was a big believer in education,” Stiles says.

In 1939 she she retired from JJ Keegan, and began to pursue her research in full force. Eventually Woody and her husband relocated to Wheatfields, and later Miami.

Even then, she spent a lot of time at her typewriter, remembers Woody’s granddaughter Diane Stewart. Woody raised Stewart when she was little.

Stewart still remembers Woody’s office next door to the little house in Miami, where she kept her typewriter and records. Even as Stewart was young, Woody was still collecting stories. She remembers taking a trip with Woody to Zane Grey’s cabin.

As years passed, Woody’s plan was to write four books. Fortunately, she wrote one, with the help of Milton L. Schwartz. Schwartz was a graduate student at the University of Arizona when Woody was just shy of turning 90. At that time, the publications committee of the Arizona Historical Society agreed to edit a collection of her stories on Globe. Schwartz was tasked with taking Woody’s research and transforming it into a narrative. Three years later Woody’s first book, “Globe, Arizona”, coauthored by Schwartz, was published in 1977. Woody was 91.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 10.00.14 PMUnfortunately, she did not get to the other three before she passed away at 95.

But she most certainly left a legacy in Gila County. Copies of photographs she collected are now in state archives, including: the laying of the cornerstone of the first church in Globe in 1880, pictures of the 1894 big snow storm, Al Seiber, and Tal Ka Lai, the Native American chief and scout who lived his last years in Miami, to name a few.

“Heritage?” wrote Gerhardt. “Gila County has it. Ask Mrs. Clara Woody.”

*There was a misprint in the the summer 2013 issue, where this article was originally published. The line originally read “She frequently contributed her work to the Arizona Silver Belt, then called the Arizona Republic…” It should have read as the Arizona Record, not ‘Republic’.

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  1. Great lady, great story. One correction: “She frequently contributed her work to the Arizona Silver Belt, then called the Arizona Republic …” should be “then called the Arizona Record …”.

    • Thanks for the correction. We will make the edit in the article on-line. I remember Donna Anderson doing a piece for us several years ago about all the newspapers in the region and forget when the Silver Belt came into being. Better go back to her article and check that out. ~L

    • Thank you Johnny, I made the correction above. Much appreciated.

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