Biographies of the Fabulous Women of Arkansas



Abbott, Shirley (Author)
Born and raised in Hot Springs, Ms. Abbott is the author of several books about her experiences growing up and living in Arkansas, including Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South (1983) and The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound (1991). She currently lives in New York City.

Adams, Julie (b. 1926) (Actress)
Born Betty May Adams, Ms. Adams was raised in Little Rock, AR. After starring in several big-budget movies, such as Bright Victory and Bend of the River, she found her niche in B-movies like The Creature of the Black Lagoon (she played the beauty carried off by the beast). Ms. Adams is a member of the Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 39.

Alexander, Katherine (1901-1981) (Actress)
Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Ms. Alexander was a veteran Broadway performer who also played supporting roles in movies such as The Barretts of Wimpole Street, The Painted Veil, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 40.

Alexander, Kathleen D. (b. 1947) (Business Woman)
Ms. Alexander received her Bachelors degree from the University of Arkansas in Business Administration and her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1978. She was the first woman in the United States to hold both title of General Counsel and Vice President of a major utility company (Arkla/NorAm).

Allen, Dorothy (State Senator)
Ms. Allen was the first woman to serve as an Arkansas Senator in the Arkansas General Assembly (1964-1974).

Altvater, Catherine Tharp (1907-1984) (Artist)
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ms. Altvater’s watercolors of nature hang in countless museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. She was the first woman to hold office in the American Watercolor Society.  Although, she lived most of her professional life in New York City, she spent ten years of her retirement in Scott, AR.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 40.

Anderson, Peg (Political Activist)
Ms. Anderson served on Governor Bumpers’ Advisory Committee on Land Resources Management. She was the Justice of the Peace for the Washington County Quorum Court and is a former state president of the League of American Voters. A native of Michigan, Ms. Anderson received her Masters Degree from Mount Holyoke College.

Angelou, Maya (b. 1928) (Author/Poet)
Born as Marguerite Annie Johnson, Ms. Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, where she helped her grandmother run a small general store. She was a professional dancer before trying writing. Ms. Angelou received a National Book Award nomination for her autobiographical account of her childhood in Arkansas I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). Since that time she has received a Tony nomination for Look Away (1975) and an Emmy nomination for Roots (1977). In 1993, Ms. Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. The name “Maya” is her older brother’s childhood nickname for her and “Angelou” is a variation of her first husband’s surname, Angelos. Ms. Angelou is currently the Reynolds Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 40.
More information on Ms. Angelou

Anthony, Carol (Judge)
Ms. Anthony was the first elected judge in South Arkansas (Union County-13th Judicial district, Circuit/Chancery). She also developed Skills, Opportunities, Activities Recognition (S.O.A.R), a school within a school, Transitional Living Program and Partners Against Youth Violence. Ms. Anthony took her Masters degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law (1979).

Anthony, Katharine (1877-1965) (Biographer)
Ms. Anthony was born in Roseville, AR and is best known for her works on Catherine the Great (1925), Louisa May Alcott (1938), Dolly Madison (1949), and Susan B. Anthony (1954).
-Famous Arkansans, p. 40.

Armistead, Virginia Wheeler (Advocate)
Ms. Armistead works as an advocate for the disabled. She organized the Arkansas Association of the Crippled and lobbied for passage of the first legislation for special education for physically handicapped children.

Ardnt, Nola Locke (1889-1977) (Pianist)
Raised in DeQueen, AR, Ms. Ardnt toured with the Saint Louis Symphony and performed with orchestras in Paris and Berlin.

Ashley, Liza (Cook)
Ms. Ashley served as a cook in the Governor’s mansion for over thirty years and authored Thirty Years in the Mansion.

Axum, Donna (b. 1942) (Miss America 1964)
Born in El Dorado, AR, Ms. Axum received her Master’s degree from the University of Arkansas in Speech and Drama (1968). She was the first Miss Arkansas to be crowned Miss America (1964) and authored The Outer You, The Inner You.  Currently, Ms. Axum lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Back to the top

Babcock, Julia Burnelle “Bernie” Smade (1868-1962) (Novelist)
A novelist and founder of the Arkansas Natural History Museum (now the Museum of Discovery), Ms. Babcock was a society reporter and book reviewer for the Arkansas Democrat. She began the Arkansas Sketch Book (a quarterly report about Arkansas industry/attractions). She was a supervisor for the Federal Writer’s Project from 1935-1938 and was the first Arkansas woman named to Who’s Who In America. In 1951, she received an Arts et Belles Lettres and honorary doctorate from the University of Arkansas. Ms. Babcock is also the author of novels such as The Daughter of a Republican, The Soul of Abe Lincoln , and The Soul of Ann Rutledge.

Baird, Betty
Ms. Baird was the first woman to serve on the Commercial National Bank of Arkansas Board of Advisors and the first woman elected to Boy Scouts of America Quapaw Council (1979).

Bakker, Charlotte McWhorter (Journalist)
Ms. Bakker produced and hosted The Woman’s Touch, the first daily television show for women in Arkansas. She was also a charter member of the Arkansas Writer’s Conference.

Ballou, Norma Louise (Banker)
Ms. Ballou was the first female bank examiner hired by the FDIC (1964).

Bartley, Anne (Political Apointee)
Ms. Bartley was the first female director of the Department of Natural and Cultural Heritage and the first female cabinet member for an Arkansas governor.

Bates, Daisy L. Gatson (1914-1999) (Activist)
Born in Huttig, Arkansas, Ms. Bates was an activist for human and civil rights. She was the first woman president of the Arkansas Chapter of the NAACP and published the Arkansas State Press (with her husband L.C.). She authored The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Ms. Bates is best known for the support, advisement, and mentorship she gave the Little Rock Nine during the 1957 Central High Crisis. The Bates moved to New York in 1960 after selling the State Press. They returned to Little Rock and she revived the paper in 1984. She has been honored many times for her work in the American civil rights movement. Stevie Wonder performed at her 80th birthday party in Little Rock and recently 14th street was renamed in her honor.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 41.

Beall, Ruth (1896-1974) (Hospital Administrator)
Ms. Beall served as superintendent of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital from 1934-1961. During her tenure she transformed the hospital from an indebted facility ($100,000+) to one of the top children’s facilities in the country.

Berry, Evelena (Educator)
Born in Akron, Ohio, Ms. Berry was a leading member of the Arkansas Education Association (1970’s) and an advocate for better education and teacher certification in Arkansas. She served as president of the Arkansas Division of American Association of University Women (1975-1976). She was also president of the Little Rock Altrusa Club (1967-68) and a charter member of the Arkansas Chapter, Women’s National Book Association. She received her Bachelors degree from Arkansas College.

Bethell, Delia Bourland (Political Appointee)
Ms. Bourland served as the Arkansas delegate to the first White House Conference on Aging. In 1950, she was the delegate to the White House Conference on Children and Youth.

Blair, Diane Kincaid (1938-2000) (Political Scientist)
Ms. Kincaid served on numerous governmental committees and campaigns. After receiving her Master’s degree from the University of Arkansas, she served was appointed by Governor Bumpers to chair the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. She also acted as researcher and writer for Bumpers and Pryor as well as researcher for Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns. Ms. Kincaid was a guest speaker with the Brookings Institute (1993) and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Blakely, Carolyn (b. 1936) (Educator)
Ms. Blakely received her Ph.D. at the University of Okalahoma in 1980. She was appointed interim chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (1991) and consequently the first woman to head a four-year state university. Currently, she is Dean of the Honors College.

Blakely, Regina (Journalist)
Ms. Blakely is a journalist for CBS news nationally and a former Miss Arkansas.

Blandford, Sister Margaret Vincent (Hospital Administrator)
Ms. Blandford served as the President and chief executive of Saint Vincent Hospital (1972-1988).

Blass, Isabel (1897-1979) (Advocate)
An advocate for family services, Ms. Blass founded the Pulaski County Family Service Agency. She was an honor graduate of the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C.

Bosmyer, Reverend Peggy (Episcopal Priest)
Ordained on August 24, 1974, she became the first female Episcopal priest in Arkansas (1979). Reverend Bosmyer did her undergraduate work at the University of Arkansas and received her Master’s of Theology from the Virginia Theological Seminary (1974).

Bowker, Louise M. (Journalist)
Ms. Bowker was the first female member of the Arkansas Press Association and first female president of the National Press Association.

Brandon, Phyllis Dillaha (b. 1935) (Journalist)
Ms. Brandon received her Bachelors degree form the University of Arkansas and is currently the editor of “High Profile” for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She was the only female journalist to cover the 1957 desegregation crisis at Central High School on site.

Brantley, Judge Ellen (Law)
Born in Little Rock, Judge Brantley has served as Chancellor for the Sixth Judicial District for the past fifteen years. She did her undergraduate work at Wellesley and took her law degree from the University of Virginia. Her career history includes teaching at the UALR Law School,being selected as "Judge of the Year" by the National Child Support Enforcement Association and Outstanding Chancery Judge Award from the Pulaski County Bar Association. On three separate occasions, Judge Brantley has been selected one of the Top 100 Women in Arkansas by Arkansas Business.

Brewer, Vivion Mercer Lenon (Activist)
An activist, Ms. Brewer was a member of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (1957) and author of the Embattled Ladies of Little Rock.

Brooks, Ida Jo (M.D.) (1853-1939) (Teacher and Psychiatrist)
Dr. Brooks was one of the leading forces in healthcare services for women in Arkansas. She applied to U of A Medical School in 1887 and was rejected. She was accepted by a school in Boston for homeopathic medicine and received her degree in 1891. Dr. Brooks was the first woman elected president of the Arkansas Teacher’s Association and also founded the Woman’s Medical Club of Arkansas. In 1906, Dr. Brooks became the first woman psychiatrist in private practice in Arkansas. She campaigned for the Exceptional School (created in 1913). Ironically, she became an associate professor of social hygiene at UAMS. During World War II, Dr. Brooks acted as an assistant surgeon for the U.S. Public Health Service. During the last fourteen years of her career, she was a psychiatrist for the Little Rock School District.

Brown, Helen Gurley (b. 1922) (Author)
Best known as editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine (1966-present), Ms. Gurley was born in Green Forest, Arkansas. She is also the author of several books, including Sex and the Single Girl (1962), The Writer’s Rules: The Power of Positive Prose-How to Create It and Get It Published and Having It All (1982).

Brown, Minnijean (Civil Rights Forerunner)
A forerunner in the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Brown is a member of the Little Rock Nine and consequently was expelled from Little Rock Central High School in 1958. She graduated from New Lincoln High School in New York in 1959. Ms. Brown graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and home-schooled her six children in Ottawa, Ontario. Following the 40th anniversary Commemoration of the Central High Crisis Ms. Brown went to work at the National Park Service. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Bryant, Jessie (b. 1926) (Advocate)
Ms. Bryant founded the Northwest Arkansas Free Health and Dental Center and served as a member of the Washington County Quorum Court.

Bumpers, Betty (b. 1925) (Former First Lady of Arkansas)
Born as Betty Flanagan in Grand Prairie, Arkansas, Ms. Bumpers is married to former Arkansas senator Dale Bumpers and is a former first lady of Arkansas. She founded Peace Links, a national non-partisan organization through which women strive to end nuclear threat. In 1982, Ms. Bumpers obtained a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Today, Peace Links has over 30,000 members nationwide.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 46.

Burton, Reverend Helen Jean Pope (b. 1951) (Methodist Minister)
Born in Pine Bluff, Reverend Burton attended Southern Methodist University after graduating from high school in Pine Bluff. She bounced between majors and finally settled on speech therapy. She followed with a Masters Degree from Vanderbilt University and accepted a job with the Arkansas Department of Health. She enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and became active in Pulaski Heights Methodist Church. She decided to forgo the MBA and instead enrolled at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO. After completing her degree in three and a half years, she accepted an appointment to return to Arkansas. At the time of her appointment in 1984, she was one of only ten female ministers in the Little Rock conference (the southern half of Arkansas). Today she is the first female minister of the First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.

Back to the top

Caden, Mary Lou “ML” Studnicka (b. 1931) (Athlete)
Born in Oaklawn, IL, Ms. Caden played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1951-1954) for the Racine Belles and the Grand Rapids Chicks. After retiring from the AAGPB in 1954, she worked for a Chicago bank and began with the Chicago Police Department in 1962 as a fingerprint technician. After retiring, she and her husband moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.
-Office of the Secretary of State, Sharon Priest

Caldwell, Sarah (b. 1924) (Symphony Conductor)
A renowned opera conductor who was raised in Fayetteville, Ms. Caldwell was considered a child prodigy in music and mathematics. Before the age of ten she was giving violin recitals and graduated from Fayetteville High School at the age of fourteen. She founded the Opera Company of Boston and brought it to national prominence, and in 1976 she became the first woman to conduct at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She currently holds the post of distinguished professor of music at the University of Arkansas.

Caldwell, Bettye, Ph.D. (Educator)
Ms.Caldwell began the “Kramer Project,” a study of the effect of attention and education on poverty stricken nursery children. She was also a national representative for research in the field of environmental enrichment for underprivileged preschool children. Ms. Caldwell was a professor in early childhood education at UALR before joining the staff of Children’s Hospital.

Caraway, Hattie (1878-1950)
Born in Bakerville, TN, Ms. Caraway was appointed to fill her husband’s seat after his untimely death. Nicknamed, “The Little Lady in Black” (because she always wore “widow’s weeds”), she surprised everyone when she ran for reelection in 1932.  “Silent Hattie” rarely made a speech and never entered a debate (“I haven’t the heart to take a minute away from the men, the poor dears love it so.”) She was reelected in 1938 for six more years and filled her career with many firsts: the first female United States Senator (representing Arkansas) and the first female to preside over the United States Senate, the first female U.S. Senate Committee chairperson and the first female senior Senator. While in office, Ms. Caraway was also the first female to conduct a Senate Committee hearing. Ms. Caraway died in Falls Church, VA. -Famous Arkansans, p. 48

Carter, Vertie, Ph.D.
Ms. Carter was the first black woman to serve on the three-member Arkansas Merit Systems Council.

Childers, Jim Searcy
Ms. Childers was the first female chief clerk of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Christenson, Jane
Ms. Christenson was the first woman to be elected to the Security Bank of Harrison board since 1934 and the third female to be elected president of the Arkansas Press Association.

Chotard, Ann
Ms. Chotard was the founder of Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts.

Clinton, Hillary Rodham (b. 1942) (Former First Lady of Arkansas and the United States/U.S. Senator from New York) Born in Chicago, IL, Ms. Clinton joined the staff of the Children’s Defense Fund before serving on the Impeachment Inquiry Staff of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Watergate proceedings. After marrying Bill Clinton, she served as a professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. She was twice voted one of the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal. After founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, she chaired the Arkansas Education Standards Committee, which created public school accreditation standards that became a national model. Ms. Clinton authored It Takes a Village, Dear Socks and Buddy and An Invitation to the White House and is currently a United States Senator from New York.
Famous Arkansans, p. 52.

Clubbs, Rita (Advocate)
Ms. Clubbs is an advocate for abuse victims and former project director of the Assault Victim Services Program of Jefferson County. She is also the former director of ACCESS, a program for providing care for high-risk babies (1977-1979).

Coleman, Viraline L., Ph.D. (Educator)
Ms. Coleman is the English department head at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She established a chapter of Sigma Tau Delta at UAPB.

Cornish, Hilda Kahlert (1878-1965) (Activist)
Born in St. Louis, MO, Ms. Cornish founded the Arkansas Birth Control Movement and served on the board of managers of the State Farm for Women. She was appointed by Governor McRae to lead volunteers aiding victims of the 1927 Flood. Ms. Cornish co-founded Arkansas Eugenics Association (became the Planned Parenthood Association of Arkansas in 1942) and the Little Rock Birth Control Clinic. She spent the 1940’s and 1950’s lobbying for the inclusion of contraceptive services in the public health system. This dream became reality in the 1960’s, when the state health department took on the responsibility of distributing contraceptives to the public. Ms.Cornish worked with the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control and is a charter member of the Women’s City Club.
-Arkansas Biography

Corrothers, Helen G. Ms. Corrothers was the first black woman to head an Arkansas Penal facility and the first woman responsible for the total management of the personnel division of the military.

Crabaugh, Marge (Preservationist)
Ms. Crabaugh founded the Pope County Historical Foundation.

Cranford, Lorene (Ballet Mistress)
Ms. Cranford founded Ballet Arkansas.

Back to the top

Daniel, Thase (Photographer)
Ms. Daniel published photographs in National Geographic, National Wildlife, National Audubon books, and Time-Life Books.

Davis, Erma Glasco,Ph.D.
A native of Little Rock, Dr. Davis graduated from Dunbar High School and Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now UAPB) before moving to Detroit to work in the public school system. Later she received her master’s degree from Wayne State University and the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She became the first president of the National Dunbar Alumni Association of Little Rock, Arkansas to reside in the state and was responsible for the National Dunbar History Project. She was president of the 520-member Alpha Kappa Alpha, Alpha Rho chapter sorority in Detroit and named Outstanding President of the Great Lakes Region of AKA. Dr. Davis currently sits on the board of Historic Arkansas Museum and the Arkansas Humanities Council.

Davis, Gail (b. 1925) (Actress)
Born in McGehee, Arkansas, Ms. Davis appeared in dozens of B-movies before being picked by Gene Autry to star in “Annie Oakley,” the television series (1953-56). She was the first woman to star in an action series.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 54.

Delony, Jenny Eakin (1866-1949) (Artist)
Born in Washington, Arkansas, Ms. Delony was a suffragette and a feminist. In 1904, she was chosen by the U.S. Suffrage Council to represent American women as an exhibitor at the International Council of Women in Berlin. Ms. Delony was the first or one of the first:

-Linda Hastings Baker, Guest Curator for the Historic Arkansas Museum Deloney exhibit

Dement, Iris (Gospel Singer)

Die, Ann, Ph. D
Dr. Die is the current president of Hendrix College

Dilbeck, Joan (Educator)
Ms. Dilbeck was named Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year (1960)

Dillon, Melinda (b. 1939) (Actress)
Born in Hope, Arkansas, Ms. Dillon was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Academy Award) for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice.

Dodge, Eva, M.D. (1896-1990) (Physician)
Born in New Hampton, New Hampshire, Dr. Dodge was professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1944-1964) and worked with the Arkansas State Board of Health to organize maternity clinics and midwife programs (1951). She directed the East Arkansas Family Planning Project and is the former director of statewide Family Planning Program. Dr. Dodge was the first woman professor emeritus at UAMS. She received her M.D. from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1925 after transferring from Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Dodge died in Tarboro, North Carolina.

Duncan, Virginia Maud Dunlap (1873-1958) (Pharmacist)
Born in Fayetteville, AR, Ms. Duncan was educated at home until high-school age. She attended high school in Fort Smith and the University of Arkansas. She received her teacher’s certificate from Cane Hill College. Ms. Duncan was the second woman in Arkansas to receive a Certificate of Registration for Pharmacy (1906). She was publisher of the weekly Winslow American. In 1925, Ms. Duncan was elected mayor of Winslow, AR and headed the “Petticoat Government” (an all-woman town council). They were reelected to a second one-year term, but declined to run again in 1927. She is buried at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cemetery in Winslow, AR.
-Arkansas Biography

Dusenbury, Emma (1862-1941) (Folk Singer)
Born in Georgia, Ms. Dusenbury lived in Arkansas and recorded over one hundred songs for the Archives of American Folksong in the Library of Congress (1936).

Back to the top

Eckford, Elizabeth (Civil Rights Forerunner)
Ms. Eckford is a member of the Little Rock Nine and winner of the NAACP Springarn Medal. She also received the United States Army Good Conduct Medal and the Father Joseph Bliltz Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Elders, Jocelyn, M.D. (b. 1933) (Physician)
Born in Schaal, Arkansas, Dr. Elders was the first woman, first Arkansan, and first African American to be appointed as United States Surgeon General. An advocate of contraception, sex education and legal abortion, she was fired in December 1994 after a series of controversial statements. Dr. Elders attended Philander Smith College in Little Rock and later UAMS, her specialty is pediatric endocrinology. She was also the first black Director of Arkansas State Health. -Famous Arkansans, p. 58.

Elliott, Marion Blanche Hanks (1901-1990) Born in Johnson, Arkansas, Ms. Elliott received a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics from the University of Arkansas in 1924. She began work with the Cooperative Extension Service in Pope County. In 1927, she became a home demonstration agent in Benton County. One of the projects she promoted was the organization of “rest camps” for women. They were designed to give women the opportunity to relieve themselves from the physically and mentally punishing tasks of rural life during the Great Depression.
-Arkansas Biography

Evans, Dale (b. 1912) (Actress and Songwriter)
Born Frances Octavia Smith in Uvalde, Texas, Dale Evans is known as the cowgirl “Queen of the West” of B-movies and television, moved to Osceola, Arkansas at age seven. She suffered a nervous breakdown at age eleven, married at age fourteen, and had a child at age fifteen. After being deserted by her young husband, she became a secretary in Memphis, where she started singing on the radio. Eventually she moved to Hollywood, where she teamed up with Roy Rogers, in The Cowboy and the Senorita (1944), after a number of low-budget musicals. After divorcing her second husband, she and Rogers married in 1947. In 1951, the couple moved to television with the popular show, the Roy Rogers Show. Her life has been scarred by tragedy, including the deaths of several children. A born-again Christian, she has written numerous inspirational books and songs, including The Bible Tells Me So and Happy Trails. -Famous Arkansans, p. 58.

Back to the top

Fails, Connie (Fashion Designer) Ms. Fails designed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first gubernatorial inaugural gown (1979).

Faust, Lois (Lawyer)
Ms. Faust was the first female lawyer to serve as referee for the Arkansas Women’s Compensation Commission.

Fisher, Jimmie Lou (b. 1941) (Politician)
Ms. Fisher is a former treasurer of Green County and former State Auditor of Arkansas (1971-1978). She is the current Arkansas State Treasurer, since 1980.

Fleming, Susan (b. 1951)
Born in Lake Village, Arkansas, Ms. Fleming is the only female to have served as city manager of a 100,000+ city (Little Rock) in the country (1983-1986). She received her Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina.

Franks, Candace A. (b. 1952) (Banker/Attorney)
Born in Memphis, TN, Ms. Franks is the first woman to become assistant bank commissioner. She served as general counsel for the State Bank Department. Ms. Franks received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas School of Law (1979).

French, Alice (1850-1934) (Author)
Born in Andover, Massachusetts, Ms. French wrote under the pseudonym “Octave Thanet” and authored An Adventure in Photography. She lived in Lawrence County, Arkansas (1883-1909) and wrote “local color” stories about Arkansas life. Her stories were written in the romantic tradition (planters=noble and brave, etc.); most filled with racism and xenophobia.

Fulbright, Roberta Waugh (1874-1953) (Journalist)
Born in Rothville, MO, Ms. Fulbright moved to Fayetteville after marrying Jay Fulbright. She became the owner of numerous Northwest Arkansas businesses including two banks, a hotel, a publishing company, a small railroad, and other mercantile businesses, after his untimely death. In 1936, she was one of three female bank presidents in Arkansas. Ms. Fulbright also published the Northwest Arkansas Times (originally the Fayetteville Daily Democrat). She fought against political corruption in Washington County and founded the Arkansas Newspaper Women in 1949 (later the Arkansas Press Women). In 1946, she was named Arkansas Mother of the Year.
-Arkansas Biography

Back to the top

Gaines, Helen Fouche (1888-1940) (Cryptographer)
Born in Hot Springs and raised in Lake Village, Ms. Gaines graduated from Little Rock High School in 1906 (she was co-validictorian). It is believed she worked as a cipherer for the Navy during World War I. In 1929, she joined the American Cryptogram Association. From 1933-39, she published thirty-four articles in the ACA’s publication, The Cryptogram. Ms. Gaines wrote Elementary Cryptanalysis (1939), still considered one of the official books of the ACA. -Arkansas Biography

Gamble, Emmie Jones
Ms. Gamble was the first black woman to serve on the Board of Trustees of Southern Arkansas University.

Garner, Ann K. Smith
Ms. Garner was one of the first telephone lines people in the United States.

Garner, Rebecca Herring (b. 1948) (Businesswoman)
Ms. Garner, born in Smackover, Arkansas, serves as the President and CEO of Llama Asset Management.

Gassaway, Melinda (b.1942) (Journalist)
Ms. Gassaway was the first female executive editor of the Sentinel-Record. She received her Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia (1965).

Gilchrist, Ellen (b.1935) (Author)
From Fayetteville, Ms. Gilchrist is the author of several books including The Land Surveyor’s Daughter (1979), In the Land of Dreamy Dreams (1981), Victory over Japan (1984), and Falling Through Space (1987).

Goldman, Nanci
Ms. Goldman was the director of the Little Rock Federation.

Goodwin, Della Mae McGraw (Nurse)
Ms. Goodwin made many advances for African Americans and women in her lifetime. She was the first black admitted to Sigma Theta Tau National Honorary Society for Nursing and president of the Wayne State University Nurse Alumni Association (1969-1973). She was also the first black to head a Medical/Surgical Unit at Detroit Receiving Hospital. Ms. Goodwin was the founding chairperson of the National Center for the Advancement of Blacks in the Health Professions (NCABHP) (1989).

Gracen, Elizabeth Ward (b. 1961) (Actress) Born Elizabeth Ward in Ozark, Arkansas, Ms. Ward established a post-regnum career as an actress. She moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and added the name Gracen (there was already an Elizabeth Ward in the Screen Actor’s Guild) and began appearing in minor movie roles. A 1992 Playboy spread was rushed to newsstands to exploit rumors of an alleged past dalliance with then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton. She vigorously denied the rumors. Since that time, she has appeared as a regular on the ABC series “Extreme” as well as the syndicated series, the “Highlander.” -Famous Arkansans, p. 63.

Gray, Patricia (b. 1959) (Businesswoman)
Born in Pine Bluff, Ms. Gray was the first woman to serve as director of day-to-day operations for the Arkansas Product Promotion Center and the first black woman to join the Junior League of Little Rock (1991). Ms. Gray received her Bachelors degree from Hendrix College in business and economics (1980).

Greene, Bette (b.1934) (Author)
Born Bette Evensky in Memphis, Tennessee, Ms. Greene wrote one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, the Summer of My German Soldier. Since 1973, it has sold over a million copies and was made into a television movie. The award winning novel was inspired by a World War II German prisoner of war camp located near Greene’s hometown of Parkin, Arkansas, where her parents operated general store. In Summer, a twelve year old helps a German detainee escape from an Arkansas POW camp. Now residing in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, Greene, a former reporter for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, has written several other books for young readers, most of which take place in Arkansas: Phillip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe; Morning is a Long Time Coming; and Get Out of Here, Phillip Hall!
-Famous Arkansans, p. 64.

Grodkoski, Sister Anne
Sister Grodkoski serves as the Mother Superior of the Saint Joseph’s Orphanage in North Little Rock.

Back to the top

Hampton, Sybil Jordan, Ed.D. (b. 1944) (Businesswoman)
Born in Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Hampton is President of the Rockefeller Foundation and is the first three-year African American graduate of Little Rock Central High School. She received her Doctorate in Education from Columbia University (1991).

Harper, Tess (b. 1950) (Actress)
Born in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, Ms. Harper was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in Crimes of the Heart. She starred with Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies and with Cher and Meryl Streep in Silkwood. Ms. Harper also co-starred in Christy with Tyne Daily and Kellie Martin.

Hart, Josephine Linker (Attorney)
Ms. Hart was the first female attorney in Stone County (1972).

Hayman, Bernice Shields
Ms. Hayman was the first black team leader for the National Teacher Corps for Arkansas.

Haynes, Georgia DeLaughter (Preservationist)
Ms. Haynes led the campaign to restore the area currently known as Old Washington State Park.

Hendricks, Barbara (b. 1948) (Opera Singer)
Born in Stephens, Arkansas, Ms. Hendricks is one of the world’s premier lyric sopranos. She attended Horace Mann High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and then graduated from the University of Nebraska before arriving at Julliard School of Music in New York. Her opera debut came in 1973 at the Metropolitan; she has since performed throughout the world, including the Paris Opera and La Scala. A goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, she was the only classical artist to perform at President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She now resides in Switzerland.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 67

Hess, Joan (b. 1949) (Mystery Writer)
Born in Fayetteville, Ms. Hess is a former schoolteacher and the prolific author of over twenty mysteries since 1986, including two series set in Arkansas. One features sleuth Claire Malloy, a single mother who owns a bookstore in Faberville (suspiciously similar to Fayetteville). The other series stars no-nonsense Sheriff Arly (short for Ariel) Hanks and takes place in the backwoods town of Maggody. A fifth-generation Fayetevillian, Hess was an art major at the University of Arkansas and has a Masters of Art in education from Long Island University. She has also written books under the pseudonym Joan Hadley.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 67

Holcomb, Johnnie (b. 1947) (Businesswoman)
Born in Lubbock, Texas, Ms. Holcomb was a founding member of the International Women’s Forum, Arkansas Chapter. She was also a participant in the International Women’s Forum Global Conference in Hong Kong. She received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law (1978).

Howarth, Susan (b. 1952) (Broadcaster)
Born in Danbury, Connecticut, Ms. Howarth served as the executive director of the Arkansas Educational Television Network and a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Broadcasting Service. She is a former chairwoman of the Southern Educational Communications Association. Ms. Howarth was also the first television manager in Arkansas. She received her Bachelors degree from the University of Connecticut in communications (1975).

Huckaby, Elizabeth (Educator)
Ms. Huckaby served as Vice Principal for Girls at Little Rock Central High during the 1957 Crisis. She wrote Crisis at Central High about her experiences during the Crisis which later became a movie with Joanne Woodward in the starring role.

Hudgins, Mary (1901-1987) (Author)
Ms. Hudgins contributed to the Arkansas volume of the American Guide Series as part of the Federal Works Administration. She served as librarian at the Hot Springs Library (1939-1943) and at the United States Army and Naval Hospital (1943-1959). She encouraged the study of Arkansas History by establishing endowments at the University of Arkansas, Department of History and the Special Collections Division of the University libraries. She received her Bachelors degree from the University of Arkansas (1924).

Hunt, Johnelle D. (b. 1932) (Businesswoman)
Ms. Hunt was born in Heber Springs, Arkansas and co-founded J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., the largest publicly held truck load carrier in the United States.

Back to the top

Imber, Annebell Clinton (b. 1950) (Judge)
Judge Clinton serves as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Arkansas. She received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law (1971).

Inghram, Shirley Williams
Ms. Inghram established the State Girls Reserves for Black Girls (YWCA) in the early 1940’s.

Back to the top


Jacobs, Margaret (Author)

Jenkins, Bess
Ms. Jenkins served as the executive secretary for the Arkansas Society of Crippled Children (1926-1946).

Jones, Bernice (b. 1905) (Philanthropist)
Born in Springdale, Arkansas, Ms. Jones endowed the Harvey and Bernice Jones Center for Families. She also contributed largely to other organizations, including the Jones Learning Center at the University of the Ozarks, to aid college students with learning disabilities.

Jones, Edith Irby, M.D.

Dr. Jones was the first African American to graduate from a southern medical school (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences).

Jones, Myra (b. 1936) (Educator)
Ms. Jones was the first woman elected to the NorAm Energy Corporation Board (major Arkansas utility). She was a State Representative from District 54. Ms. Jones also served as Little Rock vice mayor (1981-1984) and City Director of Little Rock (1977-1984).

Jones-Wilson, Faustine Childress (Educator)
Ms. Jones-Wilson was the first and only African American to be elected president of the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) and the first female editor of the Journal of Negro Education. She was a member of the Distinguished Faculty at Howard University (1977) and Outstanding Teacher in the School of Education at Howard University (1974-75 and 1977-78). She was the Acting Dean of School of Education (1991-1992).

Jordan, Lena Lowe (1884-1950) (Hospital Founder)
Born in Georgia, Ms. Jordan was head nurse at the Mosaic State Templars Hospital (1927-1932). She established the Arkansas Home and Hospital for Crippled Negro Children (later the Lena Jordan Hospital) in 1932. Ms. Jordan received her license from the United Friend’s Hospital Nurses’ program (1930). She died in Little Rock.

Back to the top


Kaplan, Regina (Hospital Administrator)

Keohane, Nannerl (b. 1940) (University President)
Ms. Keohane was raised in Blytheville, Arkansas.  In 1981 she became president of Wellesley College where she created the feminist studies major. She is now the first woman president of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Key, Vera Estelle (1893-1987) (Nurse)
Born in War Eagle, Arkansas, Ms. Key volunteered for the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. She was the founder and first president of the Rogers Garden Club. She also founded the Benton County Historical Society and is a former president. Ms. Key was also the first chairperson of the Rogers Historical Museum Commission. She graduated from Centenary Hospital School of Nursing in St. Louis in 1911. She died in Springdale, Arkansas.

King, Helen Martin (1895-1988) (Artist and Businesswoman)
Born in Powhatan (Lawrence County), AR, Ms. King attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Cincinnati Art Museum. She authored How to Hook Rugs. Ms. King also created “pre-stenciled rug kits” and other hooked rug accessories that were marketed throughout the country. Her rugs are displayed at the Powhatan Courthouse State Park Museum, the Decorative Arts Museum in Little Rock, and Morrow Hall, Batesville.

Kizer, Bernice (Legislator)
Ms. Kizer was the first woman to head the labor committee, the first to sit on the Legislative Council, and the first to serve on the Joint Budget Committee.

Kolb, Margaret (Activist)
Ms. Kolb was a member of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools during the 1958-59 school year when Governor Orval Faubus closed the public high school in Little Rock rather than proceed with desegregation.

Back to the top


Lambie, Jeane (Activist)
Ms. Lambie was the first female president of the Arkansas State Council 38 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO).

Latkin, Lena (Educator)
Ms. Latkin served as assistant to the Superintendent of the Pulaski County Public Schools (1920’s and 1930’s)

Ledbetter, Brownie Williams (b. 1932) (Activist)
Ms. Ledbetter organized the Panel of American Women. A member of the WEC, she continued on to have an active life in public policy.

Lincoln, Blanche Lambert (U.S. Senator from Arkansas)
Currently, Ms. Lincoln is a United States Senator from Arkansas. She was the first Arkansas woman elected to the United States House of Representatives without first being appointed to complete her husband’s term.

Lindsey, Ruth (Attorney)
Ms. Lindsey was the first female lawyer to serve as librarian for the Arkansas State Supreme Court.

Loughborough, Louise Watkins Wright (1881-1962) (Historic Preservationist)
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ms. Louborough was a charter member of the Little Rock Garden Club. She was a vice regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the organization that restored and maintains the home of George Washington. In 1935, she was appointed to the Little Rock Planning Commission, and learned of the plan to condemn the half-block of houses on Cumberland and Third Street (Block 32). Turning to the general assembly, she raised thirty thousand dollars to save the structures and created the Arkansas Territorial Restoration Commission. The Arkansas Territorial Restoration (today known as the Historic Arkansas Museum) opened on July 19, 1941, as a historic site museum with four museum houses on their original half-block in downtown Little Rock. Ms. Loughborough provided daily direction for the museum during the first twenty years of its existence. She died in Little Rock and is buried at Mount Holly Cemetery.
Arkansas Biography

Lower, Agnes (Curator)
A member of virtually every genealogical and patriotic society in Arkansas, Ms. Lower founded the Old State House Museum.

Luck, Jo (b. 1941) (Businesswoman
Ms. Luck founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She is also the President and CEO of Heifer Project International, a non-profit organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas. She graduated from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard in 1979.

Back to the top


Massey, Mary Elizabeth Smith (1900-1971) (Businesswoman)
Ms. Massey was the owner of Guaranty Abstract Company and a deputy county and circuit clerk for three terms (Searcy County). She was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in 1927. Ms. Massey was a manager of the Citizens Bank Exchange (Citizens Bank) and a former president and CEO. She was born in and died in Marshall, Arkansas.

Mathis, Debra Myers (Journalist)
Ms. Mathis was the first black female editor of the Little Rock Central High Tiger. Currently, she writes for a national news service and contributes a weekly column to the Arkansas Times.

Marinoni, Rosa Zagnoni (1888-1970) (Poet)
Born in Bologna, Italy, Ms. Marinoni came to Arkansas in the early 1900’s with her husband, Antonio Marinoni. She was one of the first women to campaign for women’s suffrage in Arkansas. She published poems in eight languages and founded the University-City Poetry Club (the group met for forty-five years). Ms. Marinoni helped to organize the first Poetry Day in Arkansas and was named poet laureate of the Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (1928). She was named poet laureate of the Ozarks (1936) and of Arkansas (1953). She published Radici Al Vento (Roots to the Sky) in 1956. In her lifetime, she produced over one thousand short stories in seventy magazines, printed poetry in nine some nine hundred publications in the United States and abroad, published fifteen books, and wrote more than five thousand poems. She died in Fayetteville.
-Arkansas Biography

Massey, Mary Elizabeth Smith (1900-1971) (Businesswoman and Civic Leader)
Born in Marshall, Arkansas, Ms. Massey bought the Guaranty Abstract Company in 1923 and was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in 1927. She won her first court case in 1929 and as city attorney in 1935 completed plans for the city water system, drafted the ordinance, and steered a bond issue to completion to finance the instillation. In 1934, she ran for county and city clerk on the Republican ticket, won, and served three terms. She then became manager of the newly formed Citizens Banking Exchange and opened its doors in 1940 as Citizens Bank. Ms. Massey served as president and cashier. She served as the president and chief executive officer until 1956. Ms. Massey served as president of the Marshall Business and Professional Women’s Club, chairperson of the Searcy County Board of Education, matron of the Marshall Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, and state worthy grand matron. She died in Marshall.
-Arkansas Biography

McDermott, Lillian Dees (1877-1965) (Social Worker and Community Leader)
Born outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, Ms. McDermott was appointed Assistant Probation Officer for the Pulaski Juvenile Court in 1918 and was promoted to chief probation officer in 1921. She served in this position until 1941 with the exception of two years (1929-31). She served as the Arkansas delegate to the President’s White House Conference on Children and Youth and was a member of the Advisory Committee for the United States Children’s Bureau. Ms. McDermott was elected to the Little Rock School Board in 1922 and served until 1947. She was the first female President of the Little Rock School Board. In 1961, an Arkansas Democrat poll awarded her “Woman of the Year.” She was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from Hendrix College. Ms. McDermott died in Little Rock, Arkansas.
-Arkansas Biography

McHenry, Cora (b. 1938) (Educator)
Ms. McHenry was born in Augusta, Arkansas and served as Executive Director of the Arkansas Education Association beginning in 1985. She is a former education aide to Governor Dale Bumpers and served as his administrative assistant after he became Senator.

McMurry, Mamie Smith (1879-1952) (Oil Operator)
Ms. McMurry was the first Arkansas oil operator and served as a board member and secretary/treasurer for the East Side Oil and Gas Company.

McMath, Betty Dortech Russell (b. 1920) (Artist)
Born in Scott, Arkansas, Ms. McMath is a former faculty member of the Arkansas Arts Center, in painting and drawing (1962-1995). She is also very active in historical associations.

Mitchell, Katherine (b. 1943) (Educator)
Born in Hope, Arkansas, Ms. Mitchell was the first female president of Shorter College and the first female to head a cable access channel in a metropolitan area. She is currently president of the Little Rock school board. A graduate of Horace Mann High School and Philander Smith College, she received her Doctorate in Education from the University of Arkansas. Under President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Mitchell headed one of five national sites that implemented a program called "Career Advancement Voucher Demonstration Project"; for first generation college students. Little Rock's site had the highest retention rate, and 95 of the 100 enrollees completed college educations even when the following administration discontinued funding for the program.

Mitchell, Martha (1918-1976) (Whistle Blower)
Born Martha Elizabeth Beall in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Ms. Mitchell was the outspoken wife of Attorney General John Mitchell. Her late-night calls to reporters during the height of the scandal embarrassed the administration. After divorcing her husband, she died of cancer. Pine Bluff renamed a thoroughfare in her honor and declared her childhood home a landmark. Richard Nixon once told David Frost, “If it hadn’t been for Martha, there’d have been no Watergate.”
-Famous Arkansans, p. 79.

Mobley, Julia Peck (b. 1942) (Politician)
Ms. Mobley was the first female vice-chairperson of the Arkansas Democratic Party and the first female chairperson of the Regulation and Legislation Committees of the Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission.

Montana, Patsy (1914-1996) (Country Music Pioneer)
Born as Ruby Blevins in Jessieville, Arkansas, Ms. Montana was famed in the 1930’s and 1940’s as “The Yodeling Cowgirl,” and became the first woman in country music to sell a million records (“I Want to Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart”, 1936). She grew up in Hope, the only sister of ten brothers. After high school she attended the University of Western Louisiana, but dropped out for a career in show business. From 1934-48 she was a headliner on the popular Chicago radio program, “WLS National Barn Dance,” performing with the Prairie Ramblers. Her hits include: “I’m An Old Cowhand,” “Singing in the Saddle,” and “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” During her career she made over 7,000 concert appearances, produced over 250 records, and even acted in a couple of Gene Autry westerns.
-Famous Arkansans, 80.

Moore, Bessie, Ph.D. (Educator)
Ms. Moore organized the first county library in Arkansas (Pine Bluff) in 1926. She was appointed to the Arkansas Library Commission where she gave thirty-nine years of service. She served as Executive Director of the Arkansas State Council on Economic Education and as National President of Economic Education. She was also a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Morrow, Beverly (b. 1951) (Businesswoman)
Ms. Morrow is the owner of TLM Management).

Mothershed (Wair), Thelma (b. 1940) (Civil Rights Forerunner)
Ms. Mothershed is a member of the Little Rock Nine and received her high school diploma from Central via mail. She was named Outstanding Role model by the East Saint Louis Chapter of the Top Ladies of Distinction and Early Childhood-Pre Kindergarten Staff of District 189. She received her Administrative Certificate in Education from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (1985).

Murphy, Sara, Ph.D. (Educator and Author)
Ms. Murphy was a member of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools. She also worked with Follow Through, a federal program to help low achieving and minority children, and the American Panel of Women. She authored, Breaking the Silence.

Back to the top


Neal, Frances Potter (Librarian)

Nichols, Sandra Dr. (b. 1958) (Physician)
Born in Little Rock, Dr. Nichols is the former head of the Arkansas Department of Health. She received her M.D. from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1988).

Nunn, Helen Cleola Robinson (Home Demonstration Agent)

Back to the top


Oldfield, Pearl Peden (Politician)
Ms. Oldfield succeeded her husband as a United States Representative (1929-1931) after he passed away in 1928.

Oslin, K.T. (b. 1941) (Country Music Singer)
Born Kay Toinette Oslin in Crossett, Arkansas, Ms. Oslin is one of Nashville’s queens of country with three Grammys to her credit. Although she was born in Crossett, her family immediately left (her father wanted her delivered by the same doctor who delivered her brother). After two weeks, they moved on to Memphis and then Houston (which she considers her hometown). A late-bloomer to the country scene, Oslin made a sensational arrival with her famous “80’s Ladies.” She calls herself, “an aging sex bomb.” -Famous Arkansans, p. 80.

Back to the top


Pallone, Sharon (Activist)
Ms. Pallone is the founder of SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Volunteer Services, Inc.)

Park, Sue (Banker)
Ms. Park is the first female from Arkansas to hold the position of regional vice president of the National Association of Bank Women (1959-60)

Patillo (Beals), Melba (Civil Rights Forerunner)
Ms. Patillo is a member of the Little Rock Nine. She is the author of Warriors Don’t Cry and White Is A State of Mind.

Peter, Lily (1891-1991) (Poet, Farmer, and Philanthropist)
Born in Phillips County, Ms. Peter is the former poet laureate of Arkansas. She authored The Green Linen of Summer (1964) and The Sea Dream of the Mississippi (1973). Ms. Peter was the chairperson for the Arkansas Territorial Sesquicentennial Music Committee, insuring the Philadelphia Orchestra came to Arkansas. She also led the drive to raise funds for an auditorium at Phillips County Community College. During her life, she was an advocate for the environment and led a successful campaign to stop the Corp of Engineers from channelizing Big Creek, near her home. She wanted no part in feminism and believed women had their “places” as did blacks. However, she did send many of her tenants, black and white, to school. She died about two miles from her home. -Arkansas Biography

Pittman, Margaret (1902-1995) (Microbiologist)
Dr. six encapsulated strains of Haemophilus influenzae and developed a vaccine for pertussis. She joined the National Institute of Health during the Great Depression. Dr. Pittman also worked to develop an international vaccine potency requirement. She was the first woman to head the Laboratory of Bacterial Products, Division of Biologics Standards (1957-71). She received her M.D. from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (1934).

Poindexter, Louise Patterson (Civil Servant)
Ms. Poindexter was the probation officer for the Jefferson County Juvenile Court (1939). She is the former president of the Probation Officers Association of Arkansas.

Polk, Ruth Patterson (1930-1988) (Author)
Born in Howard County, Arkansas, Ms. Polk was the daughter of a farmer. She graduated from Childress High School in Nashville, Arkansas, and cum laude from Arkansas AM&N in Pine Bluff in 1958. She received a Masters Degree from the University of Arkansas in 1965 and her Ph.D. from Emory in 1977. She served as coordinator of African-American studies and supervisor of minority studies in the Little Rock School District. After receiving a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, she authored The Seed of Sally Good’n, a book that traces the history of the Spencer Polk homestead in southwestern Arkansas at Muddy Fork in Pike County. She continued to write and lecture on the African-American experience in Arkansas until her death. -Arkansas Biography

Pollan, Carolyn, Ph.D. (b. 1937) (Legislator)
Born in Houston, Texas, Dr. Pollan was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and chaired the Arkansas House of Representatives Children and Youth Committee. She was the first female appointed as associate Speaker Pro Tempore, Arkansas House of Representatives.

Preston, Alice
Ms. Preston is a charter member of the West Arkansas Health Systems Agency and a charter member of the State Health Coordinating Council.

Pryor, Susie Newton (1900-1984)
Ms. Pryor was was born in Camden Arkansas, and married William Edgar Pryor in 1927. She was the mother of four children including U.S. Senator David Pryor. She was the first woman to run for elective office in Arkansas after women won the vote and one also one of the first women to hold a school board position. Ms. Pryor was the driving force behind the Camden Community House and the Ouachita County Historical Society. At the age of 56, she served as a missionary in British Guiana for six months. Ms. Pryor's works in the community are remembered by the Arkansas Women's History Institute Susie Pryor award, given each year for the best unpublished paper on women in Arkansas.
-Arkansas Women's History Institute

Price, Florence Beatrice Smith (1888-1953) (Composer)
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Ms. Smith was one of America’s first black women composers. Her works have been performed throughout the United States. The daughter of a concert pianist, Price began publishing compositions while still in high school. In 1906, she graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, then later married a lawyer and lived in Little Rock, where she taught at Shorter College. In 1927, she moved to Chicago where she remained until her death. Price’s most celebrated work is her 1932 Symphony in E minor.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 84.

Pridgen, Judy (b. 1947) (Sheriff)
Born in Malvern, Sheriff Pridgen is the first woman elected sheriff (1993) in Arkansas (Saline County). She served as Patrol Lieutenant for the Benton Police Department (1971-91).

Priest, Sharon (b. 1947) (Secretary of State)
Born in Montreal, Canada, Ms. Priest is the first woman elected Secretary of State for Arkansas (1994-present). She served on the Little Rock Board of Directors (1986-94) and was mayor from 1991-1994. Ms. Priest was also the Southern Regional Vice President for the National Association of Secretaries of State (1996).

Purcell, Lee (b. 1947) (Actress)
Born in North Carolina, Ms. Purcell was twice nominated for her performances in NBC’s “Secret Sins of the Father” and “Long Road Home.” Purcell is a graduate of Paragould High School. The daughter of a Marine, she was born on a military base in North Carolina. Her first movie was Adam at Six A.M. (1970).
-Famous Arkansans, p. 84.

Back to the top


Back to the top


Ray (Karlmark), Gloria (Civil Rights Forerunner)
Ms. Ray is a member of the Little Rock Nine. She is the former executive officer of a Dutch company and the former publisher of a European computer magazine. She currently lives in Sweden.

Reed, Beverly, Ph.D. (Educator)
Dr. Reed is the first female president of the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce. She received her Doctorate in Education from the University of Arkansas.

Regnier, Maria (b. 1901) (Silversmith)
Born in Budapest, Ms. Regnier moved to St. Louis in 1921. After graduating from Washington University with a degree in art education, she took summer classes at the Rhode Island School of Design at Providence and the Dixon School at New York to learn silversmithing. Ms. Regnier moved to Savannah, GA, to open a shop for her craft. Actor Gregory Peck suggested she move to Palm Springs and she took his suggestion. However, on her way back to Georgia to collect her belongings, Ms. Regnier stopped to visit a friend and they ended up marrying. Today, Ms. Regnier is one of only five females in the world that have distinguished themselves as silversmiths. Only two are living. She worked her last piece of silver in 1974 and has lived in Camden for thirty years. -Arkansas Gazette, October 29, 1990

Riddle, Almeda James (1898-1986) (Balladeer and folk singer)
Born in Cleburne County, Arkansas, Ms. Riddle collected numerous written texts of old songs that were destroyed in a 1926 fire. After 1960 she gave numerous concerts throughout the Untied States and recorded songs for the Library of Congress. By 1960 urban interest in folk music had become a full-fledged revival and she was sought out for festivals throughout the nation. She served on the faculty of Idyllwild Arts Foundation in California (1964). In 1967, she sang in Washington, D.C., at the National Festival of American Folklife. Riddle’s last performance was at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain Home, Arkansas. -Arkansas Biography

Roaf, Andree (b. 1941) (Judge)
Judge Roaf was the first female and African American appointed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. She received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law (1978).

Rockefeller, Jeanette (First Lady of Arkansas)
Ms. Rockefeller founded the Arkansas Arts Center.

Rogers, Judith (Judge)
Born in Newark, NJ, Judge Rogers was the first woman elected to the bench in Pulaski County and the first woman elected as an appellate judge in Arkansas. She received her Jurist Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law (1961) and took graduate courses at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Roy, Elsijane Trimble (Judge)

Judge Roy was the first female circuit judge in Arkansas. She was also the first female Supreme Court Justice in Arkansas.

Back to the top


Samuel, Irene Gaston (1915-1999) (Activist)
Ms. Samuel worked for the United States Housing Authority during the New Deal. She was the first to recruit African Americans for clerical positions in Washington, D.C. She administered the civil service tests at Dunbar, Horace Mann, and Jones High Schools (schools for blacks). Ms. Samuel served as the executive secretary for the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and was a former member of Dale Bumpers’ Gubernatorial and Senatorial staffs.

Saylor, Neville (Poet)

Schexnayder, Charlotte Tillar (b. 1923) (Newspaper Publisher)
Born in Tillar, Arkansas, Ms. Schexnayder was the first female to serve on the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Parole and the first woman president of the National Newspaper Association. She did her graduate work at Louisiana State University (1947).

Shackleford, Lottie (Politician)
Ms. Shackleford was the first African American female mayor of Little Rock. She served as City Director of Little Rock (1980/1984/1988). Ms. Shackleford is the former vice chair of the Arkansas Democratic State Committee and the current vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Shaver, Dorothy (1893-1959) (Business Executive)
Ms. Shaver is the first female vice president of Lord and Taylor (1937). She revolutionized the Lord and Taylor marketing campaign and was elected president of the company in 1945. Ms. Shaver challenged Partisan houses by encouraging American designers and served as consultant to the United States Quartermaster Corps regarding the design of women’s uniforms during World War II. She was voted Outstanding Woman in Business by the Associated Press (1946 and 1947) and established the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Siebert, Joanna, M.D. (b. 1942) (Physician)
Dr. Siebert serves as Director of Arkansas Children’s Hospital Department of Radiology (1977-present) and Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (1983-present). She received her M.D. at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine (1968).

Simon, Charlie Mae (1897-1977) (Author)
Born in Monticello, Arkansas, Ms. Simon is best known for her children’s tales (twenty-seven books), including the 1934 classic Robin on the Mountain. Raised in Memphis, she attended Memphis State University, Stanford, the Chicago Art Institute, and Le Grande Chaumiere in Paris. There she married artist Howard Simon, who later illustrated several of her books. In 1936, she divorced Simon and married poet John Gould Fletcher. Her award-winning works include Bright Morning, Straw in the Sun, and several biographies. Simon also wrote The Sharecropper, an adult novel about the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. In 1953, three years after the suicide of her husband, she wrote Johnswood, an account of their lives together and named for the Little Rock home they had shared since 1941. It was the favorite of all her books. In her honor, the Arkansas Education Department in 1970 established the Charlie May Simon Award for Children’s Literature, to be decided each year by a vote of grade school students throughout the state. She is buried beside her husband at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 89.

Sloan, Betty T. (b. 1923) (Farmer)
Ms. Sloan served as president and farm manager of E. Sloan Farms, Inc. and B & G Land Company.

Smith, Stella Boyle (Philanthropist)

Snyderman, Nancy, M.D. (Physician) Health correspondent for ABC News

Spencer, Mary Louise, Ph.D. (Educator)
Dr. Spencer was the first female to head one of the twenty-three Arkansas Vo-tech Schools (Mena).

Steinkam, Ruth C., M.D. (Physician)
Dr. Steinkam is a former director of the Arkansas Regional Medical Program’s Cancer Project. She launched a campaign to educate Arkansas women about the importance of yearly PAP tests and self-breast examinations (1970’s).

Stephens, Charlotte Andrews (1854-1951) (Educator)
Ms. Stephens was a former slave who according to her parents had “peculiar privileges.” His owners taught her father to read and encouraged in his education and religious practices. Because her father had educated her, she was appointed to fill out the term of her white teacher, in 1869, who became ill. Ms. Stephens attended Oberlin College (Ohio) and returned to Little Rock, where she taught for seventy years. In 1950, Stephens Elementary at Eighteenth and Maple was named in her honor and remained the only school in Little Rock named for a woman for half a century. -Arkansas Biography

Steenbergen, Mary (b. 1953) (Actress)
Ms. Steenbergen was born in Newport, Arkansas and raised in the Park Hill section of North Little Rock. She graduated from Northeast High School. After dropping out of Hendrix, she headed for New York to become an actress. There she spent six years attending acting classes, performing in a troupe called Cracked Tokens, and scrapping by as a waitress (throughout this period she earned a total of fifty dollars as an actress). Then, in a fairy-tale fashion, Jack Nicholson, who handed her a leading role in his 1978 movie, Goin’ South, plucked her from a casting call. Next came Time After Time, co-starring British actor Malcolm McDowell, whom she married (and later divorced). In 1980, her performance as the scattered brained Lynda Drummer in Melvin and Howard earned her best supporting actress awards from the Academy, the Golden Globe Association, the New York Film Critics’ Circle, and the National Society of Film Critics. Her other movies include: Ragtime, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Cross Creek, Romantic Comedy, One Magic Christmas, Dead of Winter, Parenthood, and Philadelphia. In 1987, she served as executive producer on End of the Line, a film about the effects of a railroad closing on the lives of its workers. Shot entirely in Central Arkansas, it premiered in Little Rock. She returns to Arkansas often to assist local charities, notably the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
-Famous Arkansans, p. 91.

Stepp, Laura Sessions (b. 1951) (Journalist and Author)
Ms. Stepp was a staff writer for The Washington Post and authored Our Last Best Shot. She is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize.

Stern, Jane Rita Ellenbogen (1918-1989) (Environmentalist and Naturalist)
Born in Little Rock, Ms. Stern was a charter member of the Jefferson County Audubon Society and served as chairperson for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. She served on the Pine Bluff Urban Water Management Study Citizens’ Advisory Committee and campaigned with Neil Compton to stop the damming of the Buffalo River. She was a founding member of the Citizens Committee to Save the Cache River Basin and received the Water Conservationist Award from the Arkansas Wildlife Federation (1971). In 1990, the Shugart Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Conservation Award was presented to Ms. Stern posthumously by the Arkansas Audubon Society to commemorate the hours she spent convincing timber growers to stop the rapid disappearance of the endangered woodpecker’s habitat. She died in Pine Bluff. -Arkansas Biography

Stuck, Dorothy (Newspaper Editor)

Back to the top


Terry, Adolphine Fletcher (1882-1976) (Social and Political Activist)
Born in Little Rock, Ms. Terry helped established the first juvenile court system in Arkansas and establish a free statewide library system. She led efforts as early as 1908 to consolidate school districts, appoint professional county superintendents, and provide school transportation for rural children. She formed the first School Improvement Association in Arkansas, the forerunner to the Parent Teacher Association. Ms. Terry co-founded the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools and helped to organize a local chapter of the American Association of University Women. She also was instrumental in starting the Pulaski County Tuberculosis Association and Community Chest, the forerunner to the United Way. Ms. Terry died in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her home, where she had lived since childhood, became the Arkansas Art Center’s Decorative Museum.
-Arkansas Biography

Thaden, Louise McPhetridge (1905-1979) (Aviator)
Ms. Thaden earned her pilot’s certificate in 1927 (No. 74 signed by Orville Wright) and was the forth woman in America to hold a transport pilot rating. She was the first woman to win major flying events and awards. She set the first world record for women’s altitude by flying at 20,260 feet (December 1, 1928). Ms. Thaden set the women’s endurance mark at 22 hours, 3 minutes, 12 seconds (May 17, 1929) and women the first Women’s Air Derby (defeating Earhart and Poncho Barnes). She formed the Ninety-Nines with Earhart in 1930. Ms. Thaden retired in 1938 to spend more time with her family and write her autobiography, High, Wide, and Frightened. She is a member of the Smithsonian Institute’s Aviation Hall of Fame, and Louise Thaden Field in Bentonville, Arkansas, is named in her honor. She died in High Point, North Carolina.

Tharpe, Rosetta (1915-1973) (Gospel Singer)
Ms. Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant and raised in Chicago. She was the first gospel singer to sign with a major label (Decca Records in the 1940’s). She appeared with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club in New York City. Ms. Tharpe toured England in 1957 and headlined at the Apollo Theatre in 1960. She played the Newport Folk Festival in 1967.

Turner, Debbie (Miss America, 1990)
Raised in Jonesboro, Ms. Turner is now a veterinarian.

Back to the top


Upton, Patti (b. 1938) (Businesswoman)
Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Ms. Upton is the founder of Aromatique, Inc. A former University of Arkansas beauty queen and ex-model, Ms. Upton gathered hickory nuts, pine cones, acorns dried leaves, and other natural ingredients and placed them over an open container in a friend’s Hot Springs gift shop for a Christmas open house. Customers demanded samples for their own and in a few years, she had built an empire built around the original mixture of potpourri. By 1992, according to Arkansas Business, Upton’s business employed almost five hundred people, with offices in New York and London, and marketed more than two hundred products (including candles and fragrances) through 5,000 stores in 27 countries. Called “The Smell Queen of America,” Upton has been featured on television’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
-Famous Arkansans, p. 97.

Back to the top


Varnado, Vashti
Ms. Varnado was the first director of the State Human Resource Commission. She was one of the first black students to attend Pine Bluff High School.

Back to the top


Walls (Lanier), Carlotta (b. 1942) (Civil Rights Forerunner)
Ms. Walls is a member of the Little Rock Nine. She graduated from Central High School in 1960 and helped to establish the Little Rock Foundation. Ms. Walls received the National Dunbar Association Legacy Award and was a participant in the panel discussion for the 100th Celebration of Eisenhower’s Birthday. She received her Bachelors degree from the University of Northern Colorado.

Walton, Helen Robson (b. 1919) (Businesswoman/Philanthropist)
Born in Claremore, OK, Ms. Walton is a supporter of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Program and established a reading room in the Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She also established the L.S. and Hazel Robson Library at the University of the Ozarks. Ms. Walton sponsors college students from Central America at three colleges through the Walton Scholars Program. She is the honorary chairperson of the Board of Directors at the University of the Ozarks and recently endowed the school with thirty-three million dollars.

Warren, Joyce (b. 1949) (Attorney)
Born in Pine Bluff, Ms. Warren was the first African American law clerk in Arkansas, the first African American female judge in Pulaski County and Arkansas and the first African American elected to a state-level trial court judgeship. She received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law (1976).

Watson, Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford (1885-1974) (Educator and Librarian)
Ms. Watson was a member of the Delta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha and member of the American Library Association and Arkansas State Library Association. She co-founded the Arkansawyer, the official college newspaper of Arkansas AM&N College. She served as administrator of one of the five Negro Division of the National Youth Administration educational camps for young black women in the country. She also established the Free Baby Clinic (1939) as part of the WPA nursery. She died in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Weaver, Rhona J. (b. 1955) (Businesswoman)
Ms. Weaver founded the Shepherd’s Ranch Inc., a program for Arkansas’s disadvantaged children and at-risk youth. She was the only woman in America to own a swampland and farmland appraisal service.

White, Delores “Dolly” (b. 1932) (Baseball Player)
Born in Prichard, Alabama, Ms. White played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), 1947-53. She led the Fort Wayne Daisies to two pennants and the Kenosha Comets in batting during the 1951 season. Ms. White earned her Doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi. She formally retired from teaching in 1994 and is currently Professor Emeritus at Henderson State University. She is now serving as president of the AAGPBL Association.
-Office of Sharon Priest, Secretary of State

Williams, Charlean Moss (Mayor)
Ms. Williams was elected in 1934 as mayor of Washington, Arkansas along with a six-woman town council. The story made headlines around the country. She was the first female mayor in Arkansas.

Williams, Sue Cowan Morris (Educator)
Ms. Williams was a teacher at Dunbar High School. She brought the “Equal Pay for Equal Work” suit.

Williams, Virginia Anne Rice, Ph.D. (1919-1970) (Biochemist)
Born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Dr. Williams received her doctorate in biochemistry from Louisiana State University in 1947. She made breakthroughs in the understanding of enzymes (Vitamin B in rice) and she was one of the researchers to recognize the role of biotin, a water-soluble vitamin, in the breakdown of fatty acids. She was a member of the American Society of Biological Chemists and was granted an award by the National Science Foundation in 1955 to attend the Third International Congress of Biochemistry in Brussels, Belgium. During her career, she wrote more than sixty papers, laying the foundation for an improved understanding of enzymes and their functions. Today, the Virginia Rice Williams Library and Classroom building at Baton Rouge is named in her honor, the only building at LSU commemorating the achievements of a woman.
-Arkansas Biography

Wingo, Effiegene Locke (Legislator)
Ms. Wingo was appointed to her husband’s position in the United States House of Representatives after he died in 1930.

Witherspoon, Carolyn B. (b. 1950) (Attorney)
Ms. Witherspoon was the first woman to run and be elected as president of the Arkansas Bar Association. She received her Jurist Doctorate from the University of Arkansas School of Law (1978).

Back to the top


Back to the top


Back to the top


Back to the top

Updated 08/24/01