There was a time in our American history in which women were not allowed to work. The morays at the time had women staying at home and taking care of children and the hearth.
In 1908 the US Senate voted down a bill which would establish Mother’s Day as a national holiday. The senators felt motherhood was so sacred it would be demeaning to establish a holiday. Eleven years later the Senate passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
In the realm of education women were subjected to incredible condescension. In 1877, the annual report of the University of Wisconsin Regents recommended women have a different course of study citing women could not handle the stress and work of the standard men’s curriculum.
In Parker’s early history two women who invested in their town and business ventures found satisfaction in their lives by doing it their way: Clara Osborne Botzum and Nellie T. Bush.
Clara Osborne Botzum
One of Clara Osborne’s early memories was accompanying her father, E.S. Osborne, one of Parker’s mining pioneers, down the Colorado River in a boat manned by Mohave Indians, from Topock to the Billy Mack Landing, a point just off the Colorado River Indian Reservation. This was long before the river was controlled by dams.
She came to Parker in 1900 with her father. She was born on April 11, 1894, in Indianapolis, Ind. She attended schools in Pasadena and Los Angeles. She married Lt. Charles A. Botzum, who was with the Pacific Fleet Air Detachment in Los Angeles, on June 20, 1920. The couple divorced five years later; there were no children from the marriage.
Botzum’s political career began in 1932 when she was named executive secretary of the Northern Yuma County Chamber of Commerce. She was a staunch supporter of getting a bridge built across the Colorado River, at Parker, connecting Arizona and California, to increase travel and trade between the two states.
She was given unlimited authority to create a feasibility plan. A major obstacle was the California highway system did not even have a road leading to the proposed site of the Parker bridge.
Botzum personally presented her plans to the Industrial Congress, Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Columbia Steel Co., Kansas City Structural Bridge Co. and Robinson and Steinman, which was a company interested in building toll bridges, but worked for a free bridge project.
To get necessary assistance Botzum created the Parker Bridge Association. Officers and directors were Arizona business and industrial representatives, as well as endorsement of all the major Chambers of Commerce in Arizona and the Yuma County Board of Supervisors.
The proposed project, being located within an Indian reservation needed approval from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado River Tribal Council, U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, U.S. Bureau of Army Engineers, California and Arizona Highway Departments.
It took five years to complete and on Sept. 25, 1937, the Arizona — California Interstate Bridge was dedicated, costing $138,000.
The dedication was a day to behold, with Arizona Gov. R.C. Stanford and California Highway Commission Chairman, Harry Hopkins, standing-in for California Gov. F. E. Merriam.
Before the speakers lauded Botzum’s project, a band played California Here I Come. Upon completion of the oratory addresses, Botzum cut a copper/gold ribbon, opening the bridge for traffic.
Following the bridge project, she played a role in the development of the Parker-Parker Dam road.
Citizens encouraged her to run for the state legislature. A Democrat, she served 12 years in the Arizona House of Representatives: 1942 to 1948; and 1958 to 1962. She served as chairperson for the Mines & Mining Committee; vice chairperson for the State Government Committee; and a member of the following committees, Rules, Education, Highway & Bridges, Judiciary, Livestock & Public Lands, Fish & Game, Ways & Means, Agriculture & Irrigation and Natural Resources.
She was a member of the National Order of Women Legislators, State Order of Women Legislators, Parker Women’s Civic Club, Parker Does, Soroptimists International of Parker and an honorary lifetime membership in the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce.
She is credited in bringing Parker’s first bank to the community. She helped strengthen mining operations in her area, working during World War II with federal officials to develop mining of strategic war metals.
She worked with the Rural Electrification Administration, bringing in public service development to Northern Yuma County.
She helped establish a Civilian Conservation Corp at Lake Havasu for developing wildlife and recreational facilities.
Botzum was a major factor in getting Murray Fenton to purchase land for recreation and land development — the larges pieced of deeded land below Parker Dam, on the Arizona side — later named Holiday Harbor. According to published reports, the land was owned by Botzum and friends Mr. and Mrs. Jess Askey, of San Bernardino.
Later Botzum and her brother Harry Osborne sold Fenton another piece of deeded land, later developed into the Lakeside Subdivisions.
On Nov. 1, 1978, she was honored by the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, for the contributions to the area. More than 135 citizens showed up at the event held at the Silver Saddle Restaurant-Bar. US Congressman Bob Stump attended and said he had known her for 20 years, when he was a freshman in the state legislature.
State Sen. Jones Osborn (D-Yuma)) stated he was going to propose to Gov. Babbitt and the Arizona Department of Transportation that the bridge be rededicated and named after Clara.
CRIT Tribal Secretary Ed Swick said the bridge involved not only transportation but communication between all people and all areas in this growing community. He remembered how in the old days she had driven a big LaSalle car and was know to the Indians here as “the Mining Lady.”
Marion Beaver reminisced of a “good deed” he, Ellen Fuqua Dick and Betty Osborne thought they were doing when, as children, they took some motor oil and polished Clara’s “bathtub Olds” inside and out.
On Jan. 4, 1979, when Botzum was 84, the Parker Bridge, was officially changed to the Clara Osborne Botzum Bridge. Botzum was driven across the bridge in a 1925 Model T, driven by Marion Beaver, who was a Yuma County supervisor at the time.
Botzum believed Parker could take care of their political affairs better than Yuma. She became an honorary member of the organization who proposed the separation of Yuma County. The effort succeeded in 1982 by voters, in the creation of Arizona’s 15th county: La Paz, on Jan. 1, 1983.
On Feb. 14, 1983, Botzum received one of the seven “Spirit of Arizona” awards at the state capitol. Although, unable to attend, she had Sen. Osborn accept the award on her behalf.
Botzum died on Jan. 22, 1986, at age 91, in San Diego, following a brief illness.
Clara Osborne Botzum’s philosophy can be summed up in her words:
“It takes a strong, dedicated leader to get people together to accomplish anything of value.”
Nellie T. Bush
Nellie May Trent was born Nov. 29, 1888, to William and Mary Smith Trent, on a farm near Humansville, Mo. When she was five, the family moved to Mesa, Ariz. Her first home in Arizona was tent. After completing grade school, she enrolled at the Tempe Normal School (now Arizona State University). After graduating, she got a teaching job in a Glendale grade school.
While riding the trolleys back and forth to school, she met Joe Bush, who used to pull her pigtails back in grade school.
After about four years of dating, she married Joe E. Bush on Dec. 25, 1912.Joe was a trolley inspector and the drivers went on strike, leaving cars stranded all over Phoenix. Joe asked Nellie to help him move the cars back to the street car barn. She didn’t hesitate.
Joe decided to buy part interest in a ferry boat “Iola” in Parker. Nellie joined him on May 10, 1915. She was six months pregnant at the time and arrived in Parker by train, during a sandstorm.
Joe was not there to meet her and she sat outside the railroad depot for quite a spell. A woman, who was not very friendly, came to pick her up. She was brought to the woman’s home, given a meal and bed.
She was not happy; she was upset Joe didn’t meet her. It was not a nice introduction to Parker.
Joe on the other hand was stranded on a sandbar and wouldn’t return until the next morning.
When they arrived in Parker, the population was about 35 or 40 people in town. They bought the ferry boat business on the Colorado River and began the Bush Ferry Service. While Joe ran the business, Nellie taught school in Parker’s first school.
The ferry service began to expand. The “Iola” could haul a team of horses, a cart or a few people. It was replaced by the “Nellie T,” a freight boat that could haul six cars or 20 tons of copper ore, gold or manganese.
Nellie learned to operate a ferry to qualify for a riverboat license and had to go to San Pedro, Calif., to qualify. She was the first and only woman in Arizona to be a licensed ferryboat operator, a job she did for 17 years.
The ferry service business lasted 27 years, until the highway bridge was completed in 1937.
Joe and Nellie built the Parker Cut-Off Hotel. They both knew to make a success, advertising was necessary.
They purchased a Model T for $25, without a top or windshield. Nellie gathered boxes, boards and paints. They would be used as signs directing the public to the hotel.
An old prospector was her assistant with the signs and child care — Nellie drove and the miner held the baby.
The tires on the Ford were worn and their progress was slow. They had six blowouts between Parker and Wenden. They stayed overnight in Wenden, where they purchased an inner tube and a couple of shoes for the old casings. The next day they set off for Phoenix.
At the end of the second day, the car gave out. Nellie, undaunted, began tinkering under the hood. The old miner wasn’t helping matters voicing his contempt for the vehicle and praising the dependability of burros.
She did notice a spring was broken. So Nellie left the old prospector with the baby and she walked into a ravine to get some privacy. She needed to get to her corset. She removed her dress, petticoats and torn into her corset with a pin and pulled out a wire corset support. She used the wire to fix the care and they got on the road again to Phoenix.
She spent four dollars on a newspaper advertisement for the Parker hotel.
In 1921, Nellie with her six-year-old son in tow went to the University of Arizona to study law. One well recorded incident was the law instructors wanted to keep women out of the class room when they discussed rape cases, but Nellie, not one to mince words, asked if they had ever heard of a rape case that didn’t involve a woman. After that, the women were allowed back into class.
She was never awarded a law degree but received a certificate to practice in all courts in Arizona. She passed the State Bar examination and finished third in her group of 20 applicants. After three years of practice, she was admitted to the California state bar, and later was able to practice in federal courts.
She served as justice of the peace and a school board member. After Parker was incorporated, she served as town attorney and magistrate. And was the local attorney for the Santa Fe Railroad in Parker.
"As she prepared to take her seat in the Arizona Legislature in 1922, Nellie T. Bush told a reporter: "Certainly I believe that a woman can be a success, both as a politician and a mother. I'm here to prove it. "I have a husband and a big five-year old son, yet I do not feel that they are being neglected because of my work. My folks take good care of the boy while I'm here, and my husband is right back of me in my public career. I am looking forward to the opening of the legislature, and expect to have a good time at the capital. I am a firm believer in women going into politics —the more the better. They simply have to eliminate some of their old-fashioned ideas regarding the difference in sexes. With me, I expect nothing more from a man in politics than he gives another man. If he wants to smoke, I say 'Go ahead and smoke.' And if he wants to swear, I'll sit by and enjoy hearing him do it. If it doesn't hurt him, it certainly isn't going to hurt me."
In 1931, Nellie took up flying when her son Wesley, who was 16, became interested in airplanes.
"I realized that as a mother I could retain my son's interest only as long as I could speak his language," she said. "When he became interested in flying, I knew I had to know something about aviation. So we both took up the fascinating study."
They both obtained private licenses, and since the Bushes were the first to own an airplane in Parker, they built the town's first airport. Bush would draw up legal papers in her Parker office and then fly to Yuma or Phoenix to handle business.
In 1932, Mrs. Bush was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt for president. Active in the state debate over water rights, she served as a member of the Arizona Colorado River Water Commission, forerunner of the state Interstate Stream Commission. Later she served as a member of the Colorado River Basin States Committee, a seven-state policy group that helped advance many basin projects.
In the 1930s, she was named the "Admiral of Arizona's Navy" by Governor Benjamin B. Moeur after the Arizona National Guard used her boats in a fight with Colorado over Colorado River water rights. Of course, the navy consisted of two boats operated by the Bushes.
She was also interested in women's issues and organized the Glendale Woman's Club and the Parker Woman's Club. She was president of the Arizona Federation of Women's Clubs in 1955. In 1936, she ran for congress, but was defeated. Of that experience and others in her life, she once said: "I haven't always won. I was defeated for U.S. Congress when I wouldn't go along with the Townsend Plan (an old age pension program) people, and I have been defeated several times for the state Legislature race, but I always bounced back."
Mrs. Bush died at age 75 on October 27, 1963.
No matter what Mrs. Bush accomplished in her life, she seemed to approach it with a certain matter-of-factness, and if anyone asked her why she was doing it, we can almost hear her say, "Why not?" She was a schoolteacher, school principal, businesswoman, mother, ferryboat pilot, justice of the peace, coroner, legislator, lawyer, airplane pilot, state official and leader in woman's club activities.
Women in business all strive for accomplishments in their particular venue and contribute to their community in many ways.
Parker Pioneer Archives
Parker Area Historical Society
“Women, Feminism and Sex in Progressive America” Stanley K. Schultz, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin.