Gender and Sexuality

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Entry Category: Gender and Sexuality

Abortion

Abortion is defined as either a spontaneous early ending of a pregnancy (a.k.a. miscarriage) or an induced early ending of a pregnancy. In Arkansas, amidst changes in abortion’s legal status over the years, women have sought abortions for various reasons, including maternal and fetal health problems, financial concerns, and the stigma of single pregnancy. On March 9, 2021, the Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill that outlawed all abortions, with no exception for the termination of pregnancies due to rape or incest, save those performed to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency; this law was designed to set up legal challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court precedent of Roe v. Wade and came two years after …

Act 626 of 2021

aka: Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act
aka: HB 1570
Act 626 of 2021 was the first ever bill passed in the United States to outlaw any gender-affirming medical treatment for persons under eighteen years of age. It became law over the veto of Governor Asa Hutchinson on April 6, 2021, attracting national and international criticism of the Arkansas legislature. Groundbreaking though the bill was, it was but one of many passed during the 2021 Arkansas General Assembly that specifically targeted trans citizens, and Arkansas was one of more than thirty states in 2021 in which Republican Party legislators introduced such bills. House Bill 1570, dubbed the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” was written by Representative Robin Lundstrum of Elm Springs (Washington and Benton counties) and introduced into the Arkansas House of Representatives on February 25, 2021. The following reasons …

Allen, Dorathy N. McDonald

Dorathy N. McDonald Allen was the first woman to serve in the Arkansas Senate, serving from 1964 to 1974 in the Sixty-Fourth through Sixty-Ninth General Assemblies. She was elected in 1964 to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Senator Tom Allen, after his death in 1963. She was reelected in 1966 and 1970 without opposition. Dorathy N. McDonald was born in Helena (Phillips County) on March 10, 1910, to Dora Barnes McDonald and Jack McDonald. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was lumberman and sawmill owner, with one of the largest lumber operations in the area; she had four siblings. She was educated in the public schools and at Sacred Heart Academy in Helena. Her mother died …

Anthony, Katharine Susan

Katharine Susan Anthony was suffragist, feminist, pacifist, socialist, and author of feminist and psychological biographies of famous women. Born in Arkansas, she lived and worked as a successful author in Greenwich Village, New York, for more than fifty-five years. She lived a life that was quiet, productive, and not within the parameters of what was considered a typical American woman’s experience. Katharine Anthony was born in Roseville (Logan County) in 1877. She was the third of four children born to Ernest Augustus Anthony and Susan Cathey Anthony. When Roseville’s economy declined, the family moved first to Paris (Logan County) and later to Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Anthony attended public schools in Fort Smith and taught elementary school in the same …

Arkansas Association of Colored Women

aka: Arkansas Association of Colored Women’s and Girls Federated Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women’s Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women, Youth, and Young Adults Clubs, Inc.
The Arkansas Association of Colored Women (AACW) was organized in 1905. Affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which was founded in 1896, the AACW adopted the national organization’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” and was dedicated to improving conditions in African-American communities throughout Arkansas. Its members were middle-class, educated black women from all over Arkansas. Some AACW members also held offices in the national organization. For example, Fort Smith (Sebastian County) resident Mame Josenberger (who was a member of the Phillis Wheatley Club, one of the earliest black women’s clubs in Arkansas, founded in Fort Smith in 1898) was AACW state president from 1929 to 1931 and had served as the NACW’s auditor in the 1920s. The …

Arkansas Married Woman’s Property Law

Under the common law that prevailed in all American jurisdictions except Louisiana, once a woman married, all her property passed to her husband. During the nineteenth century, some of the American states began to chip away at what Judge Jno. R. Eakin styled “the old and barbarous common law doctrine.” Arkansas played a leading role in this development; in 1835, Arkansas Territory passed the first law in the nation bestowing on married women the right to keep property in their own names. Two factors influenced the law’s adoption. First, in western areas, men outnumbered women, thus giving the women who were there more power. Second, planters were interested in protecting the bequests made to their daughters from being squandered by …

Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA)

aka: Arkansas Equal Suffrage Central Committee (AESCC)
aka: State Woman's Suffragist Association
The post–Civil War era saw the beginnings of major social change in Arkansas concerning race relations and civil rights, temperance, and voting rights for women. Female leaders from other states, often with legal backgrounds, came to Arkansas to advocate for women’s suffrage. They helped set up organizations such as the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which was designed to advocate for suffrage in the Arkansas General Assembly, to encourage related organizations and activities, and to attract press coverage. Two different AWSA organizations, one that existed from 1881 to 1885, and another that began in 1914, were instrumental in promoting women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Because of the suffragists’ work in these and companion organizations, in 1918, Arkansas became the first non-suffrage …

Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame

The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame supports the accomplishments and achievements of Arkansas women through an annual selection process, statewide ceremony, and traveling exhibit. The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame began in 2015 through a partnership between the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock (Pulaski County). According to Arkansas News, the chamber’s president and CEO, Terry Hartwick, initiated the partnership and subsequent Hall of Fame after realizing that the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame included mostly men. Both contemporary (living) and historical (deceased) women are eligible for induction, as long as they were born in Arkansas or lived in Arkansas for an extended period of time. According to the criteria for induction, …

Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching

In 1930, Texas suffragist and civil rights activist Jessie Daniel Ames and a group of white women in the South founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). The ASWPL’s primary objective was to use white women’s moral and social leverage to educate and persuade southern whites to end the practice of lynching in rural communities. Ames—who was also a member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), which was founded in 1919, and its Director of Women’s Work—sought to create a unique, independent network of organizations for middle-class white Christian women. ASWPL founders were not interested in creating another typical women’s organization, and they rejected federal intervention to end lynching as an affront to states’ …

Birth Control Movement

aka: Family Planning Movement
In Arkansas, early marriage and the need for farm labor had long encouraged large families. In addition, federal and state laws had restricted access to contraceptives since the late nineteenth century. These challenges did not, however, prevent women from using herbs, withdrawal-based, or “black market” birth control to exercise some measure of reproductive control. In the 1940s, attempting to address poverty and inspired by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s (PPFA) policy agenda, Hilda K. Cornish of the Planned Parenthood Association of Arkansas and her allies campaigned for the inclusion of birth control services in Arkansas’s public health system. In 1940, Cornish, the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), and state board of health members discussed plans for public health birth control …

Burks, Ruth Coker

Ruth Burks is an Arkansas woman who, in the midst of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, provided support for dozens of men who were dying of AIDS—men who were often abandoned by their families, with even some health professionals being reluctant to treat them. According to Burks, she also ensured that they would have a proper final resting place, providing for the burial of dozens of men in Files Cemetery. However, later investigation into her story has raised significant doubts about the narrative she has promoted about herself. Frances Ruth Coker was born in Hot Springs (Garland County) on March 19, 1959, to James Isham Coker and Aline Lawlor Coker. Her father, who was almost twenty years older than her mother, …

Caraway, Hattie Ophelia Wyatt

Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, the first woman to preside over the Senate, the first to chair a Senate committee, and the first to preside over a Senate hearing. She served from 1931 to 1945 and was a strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic recovery legislation during the Great Depression. Hattie Wyatt was born to William Carroll Wyatt and Lucy Burch Wyatt on February 1, 1878, near Bakersville, Tennessee. It is unknown how many siblings she had, though the 1900 Census shows four children living at her parents’ residence. When she was four, she moved with her family to Hustburg, Tennessee, where she helped on the family farm and in …

Clergy Sexual Abuse

Since 2002, when the public became widely aware of sexual abuse of minors by clergy members, an international movement has developed to address such abuse. In January 2002, the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team published a ground-breaking series about abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, and its extensive cover-up for years. This exposé brought international attention to the problem and led to criminal investigation of Catholic officials in Boston. When the files of the Boston archdiocese were opened due to legal actions following the “Spotlight” report, it was found that abuse by priests was documented in many dioceses other than Boston, leading more cases to come to light. Individual clergy of various denominations have been exposed as abusers in …

Cornish, Hilda

aka: Brunhilde Kahlert Cornish
Brunhilde Kahlert Cornish was the founder of the Arkansas birth control movement. She was instrumental in founding the organization that became the Planned Parenthood Association of Arkansas. Hilda Kahlert was born on January 24, 1878, in St. Louis, Missouri, to German immigrants Sophie and Rudolph Kahlert. Her father was a carpenter, and her early life as a worker and as an observer of working-class struggles informed her about a broad spectrum of life experiences. After earning a high-school diploma, Kahlert left St. Louis to work as a milliner in New York. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1901 and married a widowed banker, Edward Cornish, in July 1902. The couple had six children between 1904 and 1917. Cornish …

Cotnam, Florence Lee Brown

Florence Lee Brown Cotnam was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in Arkansas, representing the state by speaking for women’s suffrage across the nation. After women received the vote, Cotnam continued the cause of women by serving as the first president of the Little Rock League of Women Voters. Florence Lee Brown was born to Tarleton Woodson Brown and Eliza Webb Thurmond on April 16, 1865, in Cobham, Virginia. She had one sibling, Sue Brown. Florence Brown was educated in private schools in Gordonsville and Richmond, Virginia, and at the Charnwood Institute in Tyler, Texas, where she met Thomas Taylor Cotnam, an insurance agent. They were married on October 20, 1885, and had three children: Charles, Nell, and Thomas Tarleton. …

Ellington, Alice Sankey

Alice Sankey Ellington was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in Arkansas, an officer of the Southern States Woman Suffrage Association, a war worker during World War I, and a frequent campaigner for suffrage across the country. She oversaw several changes in the statewide organizations that she ran, ultimately leading Arkansas women to gain the right to vote in primary elections in 1917 and win full suffrage in 1919. Alice Sankey was born in Salem, Missouri, on December 14, 1880, to Margaret Virginia Williams Sankey and William Johnson Sankey, a prospector and worker on the St. Louis, Salem and Little Rock Railroad. The second of four children, she was active in Salem’s society as a member of youth social …

Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for women. Sent to the states in the spring of 1972, it fell short of the required ratification by three-quarters—thirty-eight—of the states. Arkansas was one of the fifteen states that did not ratify the amendment by the deadline established in the congressional directive sending the amendment to the states. However, it has periodically become the object of renewed efforts at ratification. The amendment, which was passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1972 and then sent on to the states for ratification, states: Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United …

Fayetteville Female Seminary

One of the most influential institutions in early Arkansas was the Fayetteville Female Seminary in Fayetteville (Washington County), which provided a quality education for girls throughout the region in a time when most women received little, if any, schooling. It also accepted both Cherokee and white students in an era when the “mixing of the races” was discouraged. Though it was only in existence from 1839 through 1862, the Fayetteville Female Seminary is often cited as one of the factors leading to the location of the state’s land-grant university, the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. The Fayetteville Female Seminary was created by Sophia Sawyer of Rindge, New Hampshire. She went to Georgia 1823 as a missionary to the Cherokee through …

Fyler, Eliza A. (Lizzie) Dorman

Lizzie Dorman Fyler was an activist in Arkansas in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Although she died at the age of thirty-five, she had already made a mark as a leader in the temperance movement, and she laid the early foundation for the drive to achieve women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Eliza (Lizzie) Dorman was born on March 11, 1850, in Massachusetts to Dr. Uriah Dorman and Eliza Alma Dorman. She moved with her parents and her mother’s parents to Wisconsin in 1853. While little is known about her youth, she appears to have grown up and received her early education in Wisconsin before marrying Frank F. Fyler in 1870. The couple had a daughter in 1871, by which time …

Hall, Nancy Johnson

Nancy Pearl Johnson Hall was the first woman to be elected to a constitutional office in Arkansas. A staff member to several agencies and constitutional officers of state government, she was appointed to succeed her husband as secretary of state upon his death and went on to be elected state treasurer by the voters. Nancy Pearl Johnson was born in Prescott (Nevada County) on October 5, 1904, to George Sim Johnson and Minnie Bryan Johnson. When she was six years of age, her family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she attended Little Rock’s public schools. Her career in state government began in 1925 with work for the Legislative Council. She later served as a member of the staff …

Harris, E. Lynn

aka: Everette Lynn Harris
Everette Lynn Harris was a bestselling author of novels about African-American men in gay and bisexual relationships. In his nine novels, which have sold more than three million copies, the gay characters are “on the down low,” or have not publicized their sexuality. Harris, a Black man, endured years of abuse at the hands of his stepfather and for years denied his own homosexuality. E. Lynn Harris was born on June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan, to Etta Mae Williams and James Jeter, who were unmarried. When Harris was three, he moved with his mother to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where she worked as a housekeeper. She soon married Ben Odis Harris, who helped raise Harris until he was thirteen, …

Hopkins v. Jegley

Hopkins v. Jegley is an ongoing legal challenge to four abortion restrictions passed by the Arkansas state legislature in 2017. Unless Roe v. Wade (1973) is overturned before the case is settled, women’s abilities to continue to exercise their right to access legal abortion in Arkansas likely depend on the outcome of this case. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe, opponents of the legal right to abortion have pursued legislation aimed at restricting access to the procedure. As these efforts have escalated since 2011, states have enacted more than 450 new abortion restrictions, which disproportionally impact the lives of young people, people with low incomes, and minorities. Anti-choice state lawmakers support measures that are designed to ban specific …

Hyman, Ralph Allen

Ralph Allen Hyman, an activist on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights, as well as for those with AIDS, was the first openly gay candidate for the Arkansas General Assembly. He also was a cofounder of the Arkansas Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Arkansas AIDS Foundation, and The Weekend Theater. Born on April 18, 1951, to a Jewish family in Davenport, Iowa, Ralph Hyman is the son of Leroy Hyman and Dorothy Cohen Hyman. He came out as gay at the age of eighteen and graduated from La Mirada High School in California in 1969. He attended New York University, graduating in 1973 with a degree in psychology. His graduate studies focused on homosexuality and the mental health profession. In 1974, …

Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act

aka: Act 137 of 2015
In response to the 2014 passage of a broad antidiscrimination ordinance by the city council in Fayetteville (Washington County), barring discrimination in the city on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, Senator Bart Hester, a Republican of Cave Springs (Benton County), introduced Senate Bill 202 in the 2015 regular session of the Arkansas General Assembly. A parallel version of the legislation was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Representative Bob Ballinger, a Republican of Hindsville (Madison County). This legislation barred local governments in Arkansas from passing any ordinance that “creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” The stated goal of the legislation was “to improve intrastate commerce by ensuring …

Jegley v. Picado

Larry Jegley v. Elena Picado, et al. was a 2002 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court that struck down Arkansas’s sodomy law, which criminalized homosexual behavior. It was the first time that the Supreme Court removed a legal prohibition against homosexual relationships, and the decision was cited many times the next dozen years by state and federal courts in several states that invalidated such laws. Sodomy laws preceded American independence. The colonies criminalized homosexual acts, which were often death-penalty offenses. Sodomy was a felony in every state until 1962, when states began to liberalize the laws. In 1975, Arkansas attorney general Jim Guy Tucker submitted a lengthy bill to the Arkansas General Assembly that overhauled and recodified the state’s criminal laws. The …

Johnson, Virginia Lillian Morris

Virginia Lillian Morris Johnson was the first woman to run for the office of governor in Arkansas. Running as a conservative Democrat, Johnson campaigned against six other Democrats, all male, vying to be the candidate to run against the Republican incumbent, Winthrop Rockefeller, in the gubernatorial race of 1968. Virginia Lillian Morris was born on January 21, 1928, in Conway (Faulkner County) to Jesse Lyman Morris Sr. and Frances Morgan Morris. Her family later moved to El Paso (White County). Upon the death of her mother when she was fourteen, Morris moved to Bee Branch (Van Buren County) to live with relatives while her father served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following her graduation from Southside High School in Bee …

Jones, Julia Hughes

Julia Hughes Jones was a Pulaski County circuit clerk and state auditor. She was the first woman to be elected to a statewide constitutional office without having previously been appointed to one. Julia Mae Rumph was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on September 9, 1939, to James Harvey Rumph and Alice Chandler Rumph. Her father served as clerk for Ouachita County, as assessor, and briefly as county judge. Her mother worked in several of the courthouse offices as well as for the Rural Electric Cooperative. The oldest of five children, she had three sisters and one brother. Rumph graduated from Camden High School in 1957. Jones married Charles Hughes in 1960, and they had three children. Divorced in 1978, she …

League of Women Voters of Arkansas

aka: Arkansas League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters (LWV), a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed, active participation in government for all citizens. Although it never supports or opposes any party or candidate, it seeks to influence public policy through education and advocacy. The national League of Women Voters Education Fund is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that coordinates elections and educational outreach. The League of Women Voters of Arkansas first formed in 1920. However, it folded and reemerged two times, with the last incarnation forming in 1953, organized by Esther Clark. By 2012, in addition to the state league, there were also five local leagues, in Benton County, Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne counties), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Pulaski County, and Washington …

Ledbetter, Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams

Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter was a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines. Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed “Brownie” by her family. After her mother’s death in 1947 and her father’s death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Francis Williams, who moved into the …

LGBTQ+ Movement

The social movement in Arkansas in support of rights for LGBTQ+ people (an umbrella term that covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and more; LGBT was also used in the past) has historically been represented by such legal organizations as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Lambda Legal, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). However, recent years have seen an increasing organization of LGBTQ+ people in Arkansas, primarily in the emergence of student groups at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and other institutions of higher education. Legal Issues and Context The first reference to homosexuality in the bound index to the now-defunct Arkansas Gazette is from October 1973, four years after the Stonewall Riots …

Lincoln, Blanche Lambert

Blanche Meyers Lambert Lincoln was a United States senator whose career was marked by firsts and by a desire for bipartisanship. She was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Arkansas since Hattie W. Caraway in 1932, the youngest woman elected to the Senate, and was mentioned as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in the 2004 election. Blanche Meyers Lambert was born on September 30, 1960, in Helena (Phillips County), hailing from a seventh-generation Arkansas farm family that grew rice, wheat, soybeans, and cotton. Her parents were Jordan Lambert Jr., a farmer, and Martha Kelly Lambert, a homemaker. She attended Helena public schools, and her first elective office was president of the Helena Central …