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Hattie Josephine Williams Goldwater (1876-1966)

Inducted in 1988

Used by permission from the Arizona Historical Foundation

“She (Mun) always said, ‘The other person may have the right to feel the way he or she does. Hear them out. You may learn something. They’ll respect you for taking your time and are more likely to listen to your side.” — Senator Barry M. Goldwater in Goldwater by Barry M. Goldwater with Jack Casserly

Whether she was fulfilling her duties to home and family, acting in her professional capacity as a registered nurse, or pursuing her interests in sports and athletics, Hattie Josephine Williams Goldwater illustrated through example that ability is seldom analogous to gender.

Josephine, or JoJo, as she was known to her family and friends, was born in Bowen, Illinois, on March 9, 1876. She was less than two years old when her parents, Robert Royal and Laurn Josephine Williams, moved their children to a small farm in York County, Nebraska. She attended elementary and secondary school in a one-room building in the nearby town of Waco. After graduating from high school, she enrolled in the Illinois Training School for Nurses, receiving her certification as a registered nurse in the latter part of 1903.

Before she could establish herself in her profession, Josephine suffered a decline in health. The attending physician diagnosed the ailment as a virulent strain of tuberculosis, without remedy beyond relocation to a warm, dry climate. He warned that the disease could prove fatal unless she immediately sought refuge in a climate conducive to recovery. Josephine accepted the grim prognosis with the same practical resolve that later became her trademark during times of crisis. As a nurse, she was familiar with reports on the medicinal effects of the Arizona desert on respiratory ailments. She was equally aware that news of her condition and the prescribed relocation to a region where she had neither family nor friends would prove emotionally devastating to her aged parents. To save them undue concern over a situation they were powerless to change, she wrote them that she had been assigned to accompany a patient to the West, purchased a ticket at the Chicago station and boarded a train bound for Arizona Territory.

Following a long, dusty journey, Josephine arrived in Ash Fork penniless and alone. She gathered up her baggage and began to walk along the railroad tracks in the direction of Phoenix. After a few miles, she hitched a ride on a commuter train, riding the caboose to her destination. During her early residency in Phoenix, Josephine lived in a tent city for tuberculars, near present- day Sunnyslope. The climate was immediately beneficial, or her illness had been misdiagnosed because good health quickly returned. Since she was one of the few registered nurses in Arizona Territory at the time, Josephine’s services were soon in constant demand. In addition to assisting Dr. Payne Palmer in the first surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital, she provided private nursing to countless tubercular patients during a time when few members of the profession were willing to run the risk of contagion. In 1907, Josephine married Baron Goldwater, “Phoenix’s most eligible bachelor.” Although economics no longer dictated she remain in the work force, she never abandoned her allegiance to her profession. Along with the private assistance she gave to needy individuals, she served as hands-on regional director of the American Red Cross during the influenza epidemic that coincided with World War 1. In the 1940s, she donated $25,000 to Show Low for the construction of a hospital, which the town named in her honor.

During these same years, Josephine became enamored with the then all-male pastime of golf. She shocked local residents when she appeared on a Phoenix golf course in pants in the 1920s. Within a few years, she silenced her critics by becoming Arizona’s first female golf champion. She later went on to amass numerous city, state, and regional titles. The diligence and determination Josephine Goldwater displayed toward her profession and athletic pursuits were magnified in her role as a mother.


She made it a regular practice to load her three children, Barry, Robert, and Carolyn, into an old Chalmers car and explore the Arizona wilderness. As they traveled from one corner of the state to the other, she gave impromptu lessons in how to shoot a rifle and a shotgun, how to fish, and in basic wilderness survival.

At home in Phoenix, she imparted the values of honesty, patriotism, and self respect to her children by direct example. Although exceedingly liberal in her child rearing practices, she would suspend all privileges for a child who altered the truth. Devoutly patriotic, she took her children on regular pilgrimages to the Phoenix Indian School to witness the nightly flowering ceremony. To instill a sense of self respect, she insisted that each of her children do all tasks well; form their own opinions on the basis of knowledge rather than peer pressure; and exhibit a willingness to make sacrifices to their community as the need arose.

Hattie Josephine Williams Goldwater passed away on December 27, 1966, two days after all of her children and grandchildren gathered at her home to celebrate Christmas.

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