Women Who Helped Shape Clovis Part 1

Sara Simpson’s grandson and great-grandchildren. Left: Robert “Bob” Simpson, 1894-1977. Right: Roberta and Bud Simpson. Sara Simpson’s son and grandchildren. Seven generations of the John and Sarah Simpson family have contributed to our rich heritage. (Courtesy of Clovis Museum)

One little-known fact about Clovis is that it was a woman who donated the land that would eventually become the Gateway to the Sierras.

A woman named Sarah Simpson, originally of Visalia, donated a parcel of land in Northeastern Fresno County in 1868 to build the Methodist Episcopal South Church.  The settlement would become the genesis of Clovis, Big Dry Creek Museum President Peg Bos said.

Many women overcame boundaries to help make Clovis the family friendly town it is today.

Bos herself is one of the most influential women in Clovis History. She spent most of her life breaking boundaries, as she was the first woman elected to the Clovis City Council, the first woman to serve as mayor, the first woman to serve on the planning commission and the first woman to receive the Citizen of the Year award from the Clovis Hall of Fame

Her parents settled in Clovis in 1903, before the town was even officially incorporated in 1912.

“Clovis was a family town where everyone knew each other. It was safe and friendly,” Bos said of growing up in Clovis.

In 1984, Bos was the first woman elected mayor of Clovis. The Gateway to the Sierras saw major growth and advancement under her leadership, including the revitalization of Old Town. 

She even changed the nomenclature of councilman to councilmember.

“I had to challenge the ‘good old boys’ system,” Bos said of her mayoral run.

The Clovis Chamber of Commerce recognized Bos with the prestigious Einar Cook Leadership Award earlier this year.

Besides documenting Clovis history at the Big Dry Creek Museum, Bos also contributes to the Roundup for its “Let’s Talk Clovis” segment.

Judith Preuss poses for photo at the Soroptimist International of Clovis display table during their Denim and Diamonds fundraiser dinner in 2017. (CR Photo)

Judith Preuss is another woman who helped shaped Clovis. Preuss served as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce for 19 years. In 1995 she received the Clovis Professional Business Woman of the Year Award.

At the beginning of her career with the Chamber, Pruess helped turn Big Hat Days into the commercial success that it is today.

“In 1983, the Chamber of Commerce changed (Big Hat Days) to a craft fair at the rodeo grounds, and they had so many people and it caused so much congestion on Clovis Avenue, the police department told them they could not have it there anymore,” Pruess recalled. “They went to the city and they got permission to have it on Pollasky. It just grew from there.”

She said her proudest accomplishment with the Chamber was establishing the Wild Flower Trail along the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway.

“It was the first time the county, Cal Trans, the City of Clovis, and the Forestry Department worked together and formed a committee,” Preuss said. “It’s like the blossom trail only with wildflowers…That is my most famous accomplishment.”

Preuss is currently an active member of the Soroptimist International of Clovis, where she continues to find ways to improve the community.

In 2012, she and the Clovis Soroptimist chapter worked with the Marjaree Mason Center to build a safe house for battered women and children in Clovis.

“We completely furnished the seven bedroom six bath house, so that was our main thing. Since then we have supported them each year, with various projects,” Pruess said.

Preuss said if she had advice for younger women, it would be to make education their top priority.

Editor’s note: This is the Roundup’s first part of a two–part series honoring Women’s History Month. Make sure to read the second part, which focuses on women who are currently shaping Clovis, in our March 18 issue.

Ron Camacho was born and raised in Clovis. He attended Clovis High School and graduated from CSU Fresno in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. Before joining the Roundup, Ron wrote for Pollstar Magazine and the Sanger Herald. He has a deep appreciation for the arts and is a lover of music, cinema and storytelling. When he’s not busy looking for his next story, Ron enjoys taking weekend expeditions to the beach or mountains to practice landscape photography.