2023 Women in Business & Leadership
by Blake Herzog
We’re featuring more than 40 women who personify the independent spirit and hometown friendliness Greater Prescott is known for in this section. They help us find homes, then furnish and maintain them. They heal us and prevent illness. They help us look and feel good. They support local businesses and agencies. They’re artists, restaurateurs, broadcasters and they help us tend to our pets and gardens. And they carry on a legacy of leadership and community pride from predecessors like Grace M. Sparkes and Sharlot Hall.
This year marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Grace M. Sparkes, who was pivotal for Prescott’s growth in the first half of the 20th century. According to her biography in the annals of the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame, “There was a time when progress in Yavapai County was spelled S-P-A-R-K-E-S.”
She spent much of the rest of her life promoting and drawing development to Prescott as the secretary/manager of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce from 1911 to 1938 and as secretary and arena director for Prescott Frontier Days for 30 years. After she left the Chamber she worked for Yavapai Associates, a group formed by the county Board of Supervisors, until it folded in 1945.
It’s hard to name a major local landmark or project that doesn’t bear her imprint through her herculean letter-writing efforts and leadership.
She led or contributed to the efforts to build the Hassayampa Inn; establish the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation; bring the veteran’s hospital to Fort Whipple; restore the Old Governor’s Mansion that is now part of the Sharlot Hall Museum (she was a close friend of Hall’s); and draw money from the New Deal to build the Museum of Indigenous People (then the Smoki Museum) and Lindley Field and Park.
Her impact was felt statewide as she crusaded for the establishment of Coronado National Memorial on the Mexican border south of Sierra Vista and spearheaded a campaign to build the Sunkist Trail for a more direct link from Phoenix to Los Angeles, a forerunner to the route of Interstate 10.
Her legacy includes a historical marker outside the old Prescott Armory on Gurley Street, renamed in her honor and home to the City Parks and Recreation Department and the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame. Many of her letters and business papers are part of the Arizona Historical Society’s collection.
Sparkes set the standard for female leadership in Greater Prescott, and women are expanding on the path she built as they create businesses and lead government and local organizations, including the present-day Prescott Chamber of Commerce. They are at the forefront of the retail, restaurant, finance, real estate, education, service and every other sector of the local economy as they create more jobs and opportunities.
When people look for dynamism here, they find much of it in the women who steer their own and the community’s fortunes to benefit everyone, carrying the same “spark” Grace M. Sparkes brought to all that she did.