Arkansas Nurses Association

On October 30, 1912, twenty-four Arkansas nurses gathered at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to form the Arkansas State Graduate Nurse Association; in the twenty-first century, it is known as the Arkansas Nurses Association (ARNA). Then, as now, the association sought to promote professional standards for nursing education and practice through legislation, curriculum development, workplace policy recommendations, and general advocacy for the profession.

Irene Howard Adylett led the organizational meeting attended by nurses from Little Rock, Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Hot Springs (Garland County), Batesville (Independence County), Eureka Springs (Carroll County), and Fayetteville (Washington County). Aydlett was elected the first president and Katherine Dillon the first vice president. Little Rock physician Ida Joe Brooks participated in the organizational meeting and was granted an honorary membership. The group’s initial goal was the passage of a state law for registration of nurses.

In 1913, the 105 members of the association successfully negotiated the passage of Arkansas Nurse Practice Act 128 for state registration of graduate nurses, using a network of nurse alumni associations around the state. The term “graduate” applied to nurses who graduated from two-year nursing diploma schools based in hospitals, in contrast to “practical” nurses with no formal education. Unregistered nurses could still practice in the state but were not allowed to advertise their services or use the title “registered nurse.” Registration of all nurses in the state became mandatory in 1947.

Act 128 also established the state Board of Nurse Examiners to oversee state registration and competency exams. Board members were appointed by the governor from a slate of names provided by the association. The board, known by this time as the Arkansas State Board of Nursing, also became responsible for working with the state Board of Education to develop standards for nurse education and to monitor compliance by nursing schools in the state.

The name of the association changed to the Arkansas State Nurses Association in 1919. In 1930, it began publishing a newsletter, which has had various titles through the years. The association filed articles of incorporation on September 24, 1932, in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The association’s leaders played significant roles in the formation of the Arkansas League of Nursing Education in 1931; the appointment of the first woman to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees (Pauline Hoeltzel, 1950); the establishment of the College of Nursing at what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 1953; and the appointment of the first registered nurse to the Arkansas Board of Health (Angie Faye Waldrum, 1959).

In the beginning, membership required a diploma from a two-year nurse training program. Membership was opened to Black graduate nurses in December 1949. Homer Joel Allbritton organized the Men’s Section of the association in 1951, serving as the section’s first chair.

The association’s name was changed to the Arkansas Nurses Association in 1990. In 2018, the ARNA joined the Midwest Multistate Division, a regional alliance of state nurse associations in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Membership was opened to licensed practical nurses in 2020. By 2023, members were required to be licensed to practice as a nurse in any state in the United States, and the membership numbered around 1,600.

For additional information:
Arkansas Nurses Association. (accessed May 10, 2023).

Arkansas State Board of Nursing Records, 1913–1998. Historical Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Arkansas State Nurses Association Records, 1921–2002. Historical Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Linnie Beauchamp Papers. Historical Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Miller, Elissa L. “Arkansas Nurses, 1895–1920: A Profile.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 47 (Summer 1988): 154–171.

Suzanne Easley
Historical Research Center
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences


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