Helen Minerva “Minnie” McKinley was born in 1838, the fifth of nine children in Niles, Ohio.
A precocious child, Minnie was a voracious reader with a curious mind and an appetite for adventure. She had an unruly side, constantly questioning adults and known to regularly dip into her father’s Irish Whiskey stash.
Minnie grew tired of her mother’s constant pleas to marry and set her sites toward the Pacific. In 1860 she boarded a train to Memphis. The rest of her journey is undocumented, though it is rumored that a portion of her trip was spent on the back of a buffalo. Her travels fell short of California and she ended up in the New Mexico Territory.
Despite the harsh conditions, Minnie flourished in the Wild West. She started a school and quickly made herself a fixture of newly minted Phoenix. The supply of Irish Whiskey she brought from Ohio endeared her to some of the town’s movers and shakers. She started the secret women’s social group she coined “Powdering Wigs” (slang in the day for getting drunk). Under the guise of a sewing circle, she invited women from all walks of life to enjoy a cocktail and solve the community problems ranging from tending crops to trapping coyotes. Over the years the club evolved to include men and many of our great thinkers are rumored to have been members, including Sandra Day O’Conner and Robert Mitchum.
Minnie eventually moved back to her family in Ohio, but her legacy, and the social club, now known simply as The McKinley Club, continues to this day.