There are few problems creative thinkers with cocktails can’t solve. — Helen Minerva McKinley
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. Her love of knowledge led her to a career teaching, but she always considered herself “an odd duck” and preferred the company of men for debate over courtship.
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 next few years, the club became known simply as The McKinley Club.
Minnie eventually moved back to her family in Ohio, but her legacy, and the social club continue to this day. Sandra Day O’ Conner and Rose Moffart are rumored members of the McKinley Club. Men were brought into the fold sometime after the 1960s.
In 1924, Minnie died in her sister’s home in Canton, Ohio at the age of 86.