Dorothy Yarnell Barton (1900–1988)

Dorothy Yarnell Barton was a dedicated educator who taught at the secondary level and later as a professor at schools in Arkansas and Louisiana. She was also a prolific writer and wrote on subjects such as education theory, family history, and travel.

Dorothy Atwood Yarnell was born on May 6, 1900, in Searcy (White County) to local salesman James S. Yarnell and his wife, Margaret Yarnell. She had one sibling, a brother named James who was born in 1903. She was also first cousin once removed to Ray Yarnell (1896–1974), who began the Yarnell Ice Cream Company in 1933.

Dorothy Yarnell spent her childhood and young adult life in Searcy and attended Galloway Women’s College, graduating with a BA in 1918. She went on to receive a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1924, with her thesis titled, “The Life of Albert Pike.” In 1924, she went on a trip abroad with five friends. They drove throughout France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Yarnell traveled on the SS Arabic, which almost sank on its way back into the country. The Arkansas Gazette documented this event and featured a photograph of her safely returned to the United States.

Yarnell moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to begin a career as an educator. Before Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock) was established, the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) offered extension courses in Little Rock. Yarnell taught for the extension cooperative as an English instructor. In 1927, she helped Little Rock Junior College get its start when she and several other faculty members at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in Little Rock worked to bring public awareness to the need for a college. Yarnell was the college’s first professor of English. In the 1930s, a yearbook was dedicated to her for her hard work and devotion to the college. She later served as the head of the Arkansas Department of Education in the 1930s and early 1940s and made the second Who’s Who of American Women, alongside Arkansas women such as Adolphine Fletcher Terry. She was also a founding member of the Little Rock chapter of the American Association for University Women (AAUW) and she served as president of the Arkansas state chapter of AAUW from 1937 to 1939.

Yarnell was a prolific writer on secondary English education and travel; her articles were frequently featured in the Arkansas Gazette. The Arkansas Gazette also published two recurring columns written by her. One featured William Yarnell’s diary about being a teacher in Searcy in the 1850s, with which she included photographs of the diary and of various ancestors. She also had a book review column that focused on popular books of the time. Her other published works include a 1930 article in The English Journal titled, “Little Walking Tours” and a 1931 article, “Teaching Citizenship by Living It in Honor Study Halls,” from Junior-Senior High School Clearing House. She was also a co-author of the 1935 book Basic Student Activities: Organization and Administration of Home Rooms, Clubs, and Assemblies.

Yarnell resigned from Little Rock Junior College in the fall of 1942 and married George E. Barton Jr. (1905–1976) on January 30, 1943. She taught at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, as an adjunct professor throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Her husband died in 1976, and she stayed in New Orleans until her death on October 12, 1988. She is buried with the Yarnell family in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Searcy.

For additional information:
Dorothy Yarnell Barton Papers. Center for Arkansas History and Culture. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Yarnell, Dorothy Atwood. “Little Walking Tours.” The English Journal 19 (May 1930): 407–409.

———. “Teaching Citizenship by Living It in Honor Study Halls.” Junior-Senior High School Clearing House 5 (May 1931): 565–567.

Danielle Butler
UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture


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