Originally Published: August 20, 2012 9:58 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Heidi Osselaer of Scottsdale won the annual Sharlot Hall Award Saturday.
The award is given out by the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott to a living Arizona woman who has made a valuable contribution to the understanding and awareness of Arizona and its history.
"Her extraordinary in-depth research and sharing the fruits of her effort with a wide audience about Arizona's rich past made her the deserving recipient of the Sharlot Hall Award for 2011," award papers for Osselaer said.
Osselaer recalled the first time she visited Prescott about 17 years ago, when she saw all the names of previous Sharlot Hall Award recipients displayed at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
"Never in my wildest imagination did I think I'd win that award," she said.
Osselaer received the award during the Western History Symposium at the Hassayampa Inn, where she shared some of her latest research during a talk about "On the Other Side of Allen Street: Businesswomen in Tombstone 1879-1884." Her talk dispelled the common myth that proper women stayed away from the seedier side of Tombstone during its heyday, since she documented more than 140 female business owners in just five years.
The Prescott Corral of the Westerners put on the free symposium that featured talks about historical subjects Saturday, often to standing-room-only crowds.
Osselaer praised Prescottonians' efforts to showcase their history.
"I don't know how much you realize what a special community this is," she said. "The entire community recognizes the importance of history."
Last year she brought her German cousin to visit Prescott and "she was in heaven," Osselaer added.
Osselaer wrote her first book in 2009, "Winning their Place: Arizona Women in Politics 1883-1950." She has earned several awards for her book and papers.
She currently serves on the executive board and scholars' committee of the Arizona Women's Heritage Trail, which has created pamphlets for historic walking tours in Prescott and other Arizona communities featuring women who helped shape the state's history.
Osselaer also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Arizona History, and she is a speaker for the Arizona Humanities Council.
She has taught at several colleges and Arizona State University. She earned her bachelor's in History at the University of California-Berkeley, then earned both her master's and doctorate in U.S. History at Arizona State University.
Sharlot Hall was an historian, author and poet who became Arizona's first female government official as its territorial historian. She collected cultural items throughout northern Arizona for the museum that she created in the territory's first governor's mansion in Prescott.
Previous Sharlot Hall Award recipients include Nancy Burgess, Melissa Ruffner, Mona Lange McCroskey and Elisabeth Ruffner of Prescott; Fayrene Martin Hume of Ash Fork; and Jessie Ruth Gilpin of Paulden. Other recipients around the state include former legislator and historic preservationist Polly Rosenbaum.
The award started in 1984.