DAR recognizes Juanita Brooks posthumously with Women in American History award

ST. GEORGE — The Daughters of the American Revolution Color Country Chapter recognized well-known St. George author and historian Juanita Brooks posthumously with their Women in American History award on Tuesday. 

L-R: Dana Moody, Willa Derrick, Utah State Regent for the DAR Kathryn Asay and DAR Color Country Chapter Regent Valerie King pose with photos of Juanita Brooks at the DAR Women in American History award presentation at the Pioneer Courthouse in St. George, Utah, March 9, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

The award presentation was held in the historic Pioneer Courthouse, a building that still stands on St. George Boulevard largely due to Brooks’ influence, her daughter Willa Derrick told St. George News. Derrick and her daughter, and Brooks’ granddaughter, Dana Moody, attended the meeting and accepted the award on Brooks’ behalf. 

“She was a remarkable lady,” Derrick said of her mother. “And she has received a lot of honors and this is just another frosting on the cake.”

Brooks is best known for publishing 15 books on Southern Utah and Mormon history, according to a Better Days bio recognizing Brooks for her contributions. In 1950, She famously wrote “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” a book that led to her family feeling ostracized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but ultimately led to works published by the church that were built off Brooks’ work. She also taught English and served as dean of women at Dixie State University and a member of the Utah Historical Society board. Brooks continued to write articles and co-author books after she retired, and her daughter remembers her working until she succumbed to complications of Alzheimer’s disease and died in 1989. 

“Something that – when I think of my grandmother – is now as an adult woman, I think about how she was so ahead of her time,” Moody told St. George News. “And she is the type of woman that young women today would emulate, to be like her because she was her own self and she had a vision for her life and her work and yet her children felt so loved.”

Derrick added that she and her siblings would go to bed at night and hear the typewriter clacking away all night long as Brooks worked on whatever she was writing at the time. They never knew exactly what she was doing, Derrick said, and they always thought of her as simply “Mother.” 

Now that Brooks’ children and grandchildren have grown up, they can read her work and get to know her through her writing, Moody said. 

“With aging, her mind declined, and by the time I was a teenager … and old enough to realize who she was, she was gone cognitively,” Moody said through tears. “For me to know her is through her work. So it makes me so grateful for her work because I can know her.” 

DAR Color Country Chapter Regent Valerie King, right, presents the Women in American History award to Willa Derrick and Dana Moody at the Pioneer Courthouse in St. George, Utah, March 9, 2021 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News

Brooks cared deeply about the history of Southern Utah and fought to preserve it, Derrick said. She recalled a time when the city wanted to tear down the Pioneer Courthouse to make way for a service station and Brooks, who was livid, formed a committee to save the building. Brooks was also very generous, and wrote a letter to the first Black student at Dixie College inviting him to her home, Derrick said. She really loved Dixie College, now Dixie State University, the school that all of Derrick’s children and some of her grandchildren also attended. 

“She was very kind and generous, and very aware of other people’s needs,” Derrick said. “She inspired all of us to progress intellectually and to use whatever we had up there to achieve.”

In addition to the award, the Washington County Historical Society will unveil a bronze statue of Brooks later this year in St. George in her honor.  The society plans to install the statue outside of the St. George Children’s Museum, formerly the Dixie Academy Building where Brooks studied and taught.

Details are being discussed with the city of St. George, but donation checks for the project can be made out to WCHS Juanita Brooks Project and mailed to the Washington County Historical Society, P.O. Box 404, St. George, UT 84771.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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