Roberta Flake Clayton self-published Pioneer Women of Arizona in 1969 after spending thirty-three years conducting numerous interviews and cataloguing over two hundred biographical sketches of the pioneer women, both old and young, who, beginning in the nineteenth century, came to Arizona by wagon or train and settled communities such as Phoenix, Mesa, Snowflake, Flagstaff, and Prescott.
Her work fell by the wayside until Catherine H. Ellis (a fifth-generation Arizonian and BYU graduate) and David F. Boone (an educator and historian) revived the work, creating a second edition with added footnotes, maps, a biography of Roberta Clayton, a history of Latter-day Saint migration to Arizona, and hundreds of photographs.
The 207 biographical sketches featured in Pioneer Women of Arizona are very detailed and comprehensive. In creating these sketches, Clayton’s goal was to preserve their stories, including the stories of women Clayton knew personally, and to give younger generations role models to look up to.
The fact that she decided to specifically focus on women adds to the value of this work, since women have often been underrepresented in mainstream historical narratives. Although she was encouraged to make the scope of her work “more universal,” Clayton decided to focus on women because of their great faith and resourcefulness in obeying their Church leaders and settling an area far from civilization (29).
Clayton originally dedicated this work to “the descendants of the noble women who pioneered the West” (iii), but this work is more than a genealogist’s gold mine—it is a treasure for all those interested in the history of Arizona, the history of the Latter-day Saints, women’s studies, and stories of faith.