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Sharlot Hall — On Being Seen In Public With A Democrat

Sharlot Hall and a friend of unknown party affiliation taking a spin in an Arizona forest, circa 1913.

Sharlot Hall and a friend of unknown party affiliation taking a spin in an Arizona forest, circa 1913.

Sharlot Hall got involved in national politics on a couple of occasions, and one, a 1925 trip to Washington D.C. as an elector for Calvin Coolidge, eventually underlined what she called her natural outlaw spirit.

Seven years after making the trip in support of Silent Cal, she was washing dishes on an October evening when there was a knock.

“Though I didn’t know there was a Republican Headquarters in Prescott, there really is,” she disingenuously wrote later, “and it had been ‘keeping cases’ on the doings of even as unimportant a person as myself … Hence there came a messenger from that headquarters suggesting that my conduct of late had been such as to call for a reprimand.

“Hastily, I searched my mind for some misdeed — I had stayed at home nights; I had faithfully cared for the relics — I had met all visitors in as nearly the manner of a lady as is natural for me — wherein was I at fault?

“Soon it was made clear — I had been seen in public with a lady who now holds office in Yavapai County — a lady elected by the opposing party — and thereby I had given some Republican voters the anxious fear that I might be supporting her instead of the party nominee.

“‘Party loyalty,’ it seems, demanded more circumspect conduct from me than from some others because in 1924 I had been selected as one of the presidential electors of Arizona and had later had an interesting trip to Washington — for which it was now up to me to pay by so behaving myself in public that I would stir up no doubts in the minds of possible voters as to whether I might not think some candidate of the other party better fitted to hold certain offices.

“Again I hastily searched my mind — Alas yes! Some weeks ago the lady in question, a present office holder, had business in a region of old-time ranches which I longed to visit in search of old spurs, bridle-bits, early farm tools, and the like. I have not of late been well enough to drive my own car so far and my relic-hunting tendency was like a mountain flood long held in check by the new Banning Creek Dam — it was ready to burst all bounds of prudence and forget party obligations.”

Hall paid the local Republican headquarters a visit the following day.

“I went up those stairs … still a gentle lady, as I thought. I came down those stairs a red-hot independent — with the branding iron of insurgency on me for life.

“I was the maddest I have been for many years — and getting madder every minute. I was no lady — and I am not a lady yet so far as voting is concerned. As I came downstairs I made myself a political litany — and I have been saying it over and over since like a confession of absolute faith in church at Easter.

“This is part of it — and I’ll stand back to the wall and be shot at by all the political guns in the United States before I’ll change one line of it.

“No political party can do my thinking for me.

“No political party can line me up to vote for anybody that I don’t believe is fitted to fill the office they are trying to get.

“There ‘ain’t no such animal’ as party loyalty which obliges me to vote for anyone I think unfit….

“Of course — being a woman, and no longer a gentle lady absorbed in collecting ancient relics — I added a postscript, which is always the most important part of any woman’s letter. It goes this way: “I will vote exactly as I please.

“I will campaign for anyone I want to — even though they be a candidate of the Democratic Party.

“If any voter is misled because of my conduct it’s just too bad for him — because even though that trip to Washington is not going to be paid for — it is just too bad that the party happened to pick a natural outlaw to send to Washington — but I’m not to blame for the party’s mistaken judgment.”

That Oct. 27, her 62nd birthday, Hall declared her choices for the coming elections. Not only did she support Grace Chapman, the Democratic friend with whom she’d been seen on the infamous relic-hunting excursion, for Yavapai County recorder, she also backed incumbent Democrat Lewis Douglas for the House and incumbent Democrat Carl Hayden for the Senate. She turned her back on Hayden’s Republican opponent, former senator Ralph Cameron, a personal friend with whom she had stayed in Washington in 1925, saying he had “been too long away from Arizona.”

It was 1932, and all these Democrats and many others rolled into office, part of the Roosevelt landslide.

— Arizona Capitol Times archives.  Photo courtesy State Library, Archives and Public Records.

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