By Kathryn Reisdorfer
(This is the first part of a two-part article regarding Ann Hopkins.)
A student of mine led into her presentation on Sharlot Hall by asking the class, "Do you remember Molly Brown in The Titanic? Well, Sharlot Hall was like her!" Lively and rugged, women with minds of their own-that's how people might describe Sharlot or Molly. We often admire those unique women, and we love to hear how they thumbed their noses at social convention. But if we look more closely, we might realize that they found it painful to swim against the current, and we might conclude that society is often kinder to "characters" from a distance than it is at close range. This was the case with Ann Hopkins.
Hopkins, who moved to Jerome in 1904, was Sharlot and Molly's contemporary, and she was like them in many ways. She knew what she wanted and set out to get it. Married to the United Verde Copper Company's Chief Engineer, she was a successful entrepreneur. But despite her achievements, her contemporaries didn't celebrate her fetes. In fact, a jury in Prescott decided she was so dangerous that they sent her to the State Penitentiary in Florence.
That was in the spring of 1921, when local newspapers ran stories about German Communist revolts and the faltering U.S. economy. Yavapai County was hit hard as copper prices plummeted; hundreds of miners in Jerome were laid off. Despite these pressing economic and political issues, area newspapers found plenty of space for Hopkins' story. On May 31, 1921, The Prescott Evening Courier blasted a header across the front page: "Mrs. Hopkins sentenced to 5 to 14 years in State Prison for throwing acid on teacher."
This was an unusual sentence for a crime that, violent though it was, did not permanently harm its victim. And to put into context, in Arizona at that time, women got one to three years for murder, it is even more amazing.
The fact is that Ann Hopkins' life was far more disfigured than her opponent's face was. Her tale deserves retelling because it helps us understand another era and sheds light on our own. We have good information to start an investigation. Hopkins wrote an autobiography in 1934. It was never published, so we will tell her tale for her.
Ann Hopkins was a young bride when she came to Jerome. Only a few years off a farm in North Dakota, this petite, pretty daughter of Irish immigrants had already shown her determination.
Like many rural children 100 year ago, Ann couldn't attend high school without boarding in town. Since her parents were unable to pay for her keep, she worked from 4:00 in the morning until 8:30, when she went to school. After school, she worked until eight and did homework until 11:00, but she often fell asleep before then, just as she often dozed off in school.
When she was sixteen, she taught for one session, but Ann still thirsted for knowledge. After spending the following year at "the academy," she joined her brother in Butte, Montana. She loved it! Working for an artist, she studied interior design and had a full social life. Her circle included a young man from the upper crust. Clarence Hopkins had a degree in engineering from the Michigan School of Mines. They wed, despite objections from his mother, who thought her son was marrying beneath him.
Ann didn't. In fact, she felt superior to her weak-kneed husband. After he lost his first engineering position, she convinced him to use his connections to get a job at the mines in Jerome.
Copper had been mined for eons, but in the 1880s, it became more even more valuable. It conducted electricity. Various people discovered copper in the hills around Jerome. Morris Andrew Ruffner found a rich vein, but, since he and his partner couldn't raise the capital to develop their claim, they sold out to the United Verde Copper Company in 1879. William Andrews Clark, a Montana mining baron, became sole owner of that company, destined to become one of the richest copper producers in the United States.
Clarence Hopkins got his job from Clark. Ann was glad for the move to Jerome but despised the "camp" from the beginning. The streets, Ann noted in her autobiography, were "lined with foreigners and Indians and women from the saloons and Red Light Districts." Then and there, she swore she would "never become a part of it. I would live above it, and I was true to that vow ."
Ann became fast friends with the manager of the United Verde, Will Clark, and his wife. From them, Hopkins learned how to coax her husband into positions of authority.
Ann also learned about managing money. She wanted to be able to take care of herself. Custom and laws made this difficult, but a resourceful woman could get around them. Ann Hopkins convinced her husband to open a joint bank account in 1907.
Taking in a lodger to increase the family's income, she set aside the $15 she earned every month and economized in other ways, quickly saving $700. Then she borrowed another $200 and bought a house. Leveraging her holdings, she purchased four other houses, two lots, and a rooming house. Using the rents to pay off the mortgages, she held all the properties clear in four years! Later she bought an 80-acre ranch in the Verde Valley. She was busy but not too busy to have fun.
Ann's social life did not include the ladies of the town. Her house became the recreational hub for a group young professional men like her husband and boarder. Ann cooked for the fellows and learned to play poker! They called her Lady Hop.
Meanwhile, she had three children. Critical of schools in Jerome, she sent them to St. Joseph's Academy in Prescott. Later, people would refer to this as another example of how she didn't fit it in. Mrs. Hopkins was breaking all the rules!
Next week we will learn more about Ann Hopkins.
Kathryn Reisdorfer is currently researching the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Hopkins "crime" and her life, both before and after the incident. A much longer account of this story can be found in the Jerome Chronicle, which is available from the Jerome Historical Society