Gender and Sexuality

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Entry Category: Gender and Sexuality

Oldfield, Pearl

aka: Fannie Pearl Peden Oldfield
In 1929, Fannie Pearl Peden Oldfield became the first woman from Arkansas elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served from January 9, 1929, to March 3, 1931. While a member of the House of Representatives, Oldfield introduced twenty-eight bills, served on three House committees, and spoke in Congress on three occasions. Pearl Peden, daughter of John Peden and Amanda Hill Peden, was born on a farm near Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) on December 2, 1876. She attended Cotton Plant Grammar School and Batesville Public School. In 1891, Peden enrolled in Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville (Independence County) but withdrew before finishing a degree. In June 1901, she married William Allen Oldfield. The couple had no …

Panel of American Women

The Little Rock Panel of American Women was organized in 1963 by Sara Alderman Murphy. It was based on the national Panel of American Women that emerged in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1956, and it offered participants the opportunity to learn more about people of different races, religions, and cultures. In the aftermath of the 1957 school desegregation crisis in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the continued efforts to desegregate schools across the state, the panel provided a structured forum for open discussion about racial and religious differences. The organization’s members traveled around Arkansas to speak. The panels consisted of five or six women—Jewish, Catholic, African American, white Protestant, and occasionally Asian American—and a moderator. Each woman spoke about her …

Pharr, Suzanne

Suzanne Pharr is a longtime activist for social justice. As an author, organizer, and strategist, she has led numerous campaigns aimed at ensuring equality and opportunity for often-marginalized people. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Lawrenceville, Georgia, to Cecil Pharr and Willie Mae “Peggy” Moore Pharr. Her father was a farmer, and Pharr, the youngest of eight children, grew up on a farm in Hog Mountain, Georgia, about six miles outside of Lawrenceville. After attending the local schools and earning a reputation as an outstanding high school basketball player, Pharr attended Women’s College of Georgia in Milledgeville, where she earned a BA in English. In 1964, she was awarded an MA in English by the State University of New …

Planned Parenthood

Through education, advocacy, and direct services, Planned Parenthood seeks to ensure healthy sexuality, family health, and access to high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare. The topic of reproductive education and healthcare has long been a source for debate both nationally and in Arkansas. At the height of the Depression, Little Rock (Pulaski County) activist Hilda Cornish was convinced that the ability to limit family size could be crucial to a family’s financial survival. In February 1931, Cornish established the Little Rock Birth Control Clinic, the first such service in Arkansas. Services were provided at a minimal fee for any married woman whose family made less than $75 per month. Establishment of this clinic was met with public resistance; one woman wrote, …

Political Equality League

The Progressive Era (circa 1890–1920) in Arkansas included efforts by citizens to win voting rights for women in the state and nation. Women’s clubs that were interested in civil rights, temperance, and social change gradually formed suffrage groups to push the Arkansas General Assembly toward state suffrage for women and toward approval of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enfranchised women nationally. Many women who led such groups were outsiders who also had legal training or were lawyers. The Political Equality League (PEL), formed in 1911 in Little Rock (Pulaski County), is considered by historians to be a culminating group that worked with similar organizations, both state and national, for the next eight years to win suffrage for …

Pryor, Susan Hampton Newton

Susan Hampton Newton Pryor was the first woman in Arkansas to run for a political office after women obtained the vote and was one of the first women to hold a seat on a local school board. She also participated in one of the first historic preservation projects in the state, was the mother of David Pryor (who served as governor of Arkansas and U.S. senator), and was the grandmother of Mark Pryor (who served as Arkansas’s attorney general and was elected U.S. senator in 2002). Susie Newton was born in Camden (Ouachita County) on November 9, 1900, to Robert D. and Cornelia Ellen Newton. Her father owned the Camden Shingle Mill and was the sheriff of Ouachita County. After …

Roy, Elsijane Trimble

Elsijane Trimble Roy was Arkansas’s first woman circuit judge, the first woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court, the first woman appointed to an Arkansas federal judgeship, the first woman federal judge in the Eighth Circuit, and the first Arkansas woman to follow her father as a federal judge. Born on April 2, 1916, in Lonoke (Lonoke County), Elsijane Trimble was one of five children of Judge Thomas Clark Trimble III and Elsie Walls. Her father and grandfather were both attorneys in a law practice with Senator Joseph T. Robinson, and her father later became a federal judge. Trimble grew up in Lonoke attending local schools and was a star basketball player her four years at Lonoke High School, graduating in …

Schoppach, Annie

aka: Annie Adelia Anette Ryerse
Annie Schoppach was the first female graduate of the Medical Department of the University of Arkansas (now the College of Medicine of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences). She practiced medicine in Little Rock (Pulaski County), entering a profession that was almost entirely male dominated. Annie Adelia Anette Ryerse was born in Port Ryerse, Ontario, Canada, on May 3, 1859, the daughter of James and Sarah Ryerse. The Ryerse family was the most prominent family in the area, her great-grandfather having been the lieutenant governor of the Western District of Upper Canada. She experienced a great deal of loss early in her life. Her mother died when she was a small child. Later, her twin sister died. Her paternal …

Sheid, Vada Webb

Vada Webb Sheid was the first woman to serve in both the Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives in a political career that stretched across five decades. Vada Webb was born on August 19, 1916, in Izard County, the only child of J. W. “Bill” Webb and Gertrude Reynolds Webb. Her father was a cattle buyer. She grew up in Calico Rock (Izard County) and graduated from high school there in 1934. She later attended Draughon School of Business in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1935, Webb went to work as Izard County welfare director and then became an interviewer for the state welfare department. She married Carl Sheid of Norfork (Baxter County) on December 31, 1940. They moved …

Terry, Adolphine Fletcher

Adolphine Fletcher Terry was a civic-minded woman from a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) family who used her position to improve schools and libraries, start a juvenile court system, provide affordable housing, promote the education of women and women’s rights, and challenge the racism of the Old South. Terry pushed for social change in the early years of the civil rights movement and may best be known as the leader of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC). Adolphine Fletcher was born on November 3, 1882, in Little Rock to John Gould Fletcher and Adolphine Krause Fletcher. Her father worked in the cotton business and in banking and served terms as sheriff of Pulaski County and city mayor. …

Thaden, Louise McPhetridge

Louise McPhetridge Thaden was an aviation pioneer and holder of numerous flight records during the late 1920s and 1930s. At one point, she was the most famous female American aviator only after Amelia Earhart. Louise McPhetridge was born in Bentonville (Benton County) on November 12, 1905, to Roy McPhetridge, a travelling Mentholatum salesman who taught Louise to hunt, fish, and fix a car, and Edna McPhetridge, a housewife. She had one sister. Raised on the family farm, McPhetridge discovered an early interest in aviation long before learning to fly. A ride in a plane with a barnstormer fuelled her desire to fly. After attending local public schools, McPhetridge attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1922 …

Warner, Julia McAlmont

Julia McAlmont Warner was an educator at Arkansas Female College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and a leader of the Political Equality League, a women’s suffrage organization in Arkansas. Julia McAlmont Warner was born on September 1, 1860, in Hornell, New York, to Truman Warner and Myra Cordelia McAlmont Warner, both natives of New York. Her mother established the Arkansas Female College in 1872 and was an early supporter of women’s suffrage in Arkansas. In 1877, Julia McAlmont Warner began her career teaching at the Arkansas Female College at the age of seventeen and continued there for several years. She was fluent in several languages, including Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian. In 1911, a number of prominent women in the …

Wassell, Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie)

Elizabeth McConaughey (Bettie) Wassell was the honorary state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a member of the Political Equality League, and the chairperson of the History Committee of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Central Committee. Bettie McConaughey was born on October 12, 1859, in Searcy (White County) to James W. McConaughey and Albina McRae McConaughey. Her parents were prominent social and cultural figures during the Civil War; James was a captain in the Confederate army, and Albina was the sister of Confederate general Dandridge McRae. McConaughey married Samuel Spotts Wassell on April 8, 1978. Samuel Wassell was a Cornell University graduate and attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, and later in Little Rock (Pulaski County). They had four …

Wingo, Effiegene Locke

In 1930, Effiegene Locke Wingo became the second of only four women from Arkansas to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she served from November 4, 1930, to March 3, 1933. Wingo introduced eighteen bills and served on three House committees during her congressional service. Effiegene Locke, daughter of George T. Locke and Callie Blanche Dooley Locke, was born in Lockesburg (Sevier County) on April 13, 1883. She attended Union Female College in Oxford, Mississippi, but it is unknown if she graduated from this institution. In 1902, she graduated from Maddox Seminary in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with a bachelor’s degree in music. On October 15, 1902, she married Otis Theodore Wingo, a lawyer and banker who …

Woman’s Chronicle

On March 3, 1888, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) three women—Catherine Campbell Cuningham, Mary Burt Brooks, and Haryot Holt Cahoon—published the first issue of the Woman’s Chronicle, a weekly newspaper dedicated to women’s interests, particularly suffrage. Cuningham was listed as the editor, Brooks and Cahoon as associate editors. The previous year, the short-lived Little Rock publication the Southern Ladies’ Journal had ended its run, leaving a void that it appears these women sought to fill. The founding meeting of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association had been held the month before, likely generating some of the motivation as well. The Woman’s Chronicle focused on women’s primary day-to-day interests at the time—cooking, fashion, and literature—in addition to social gatherings, events, and the …

Women

From prehistoric times through the French and Spanish colonial eras, from the territorial period through statehood, secession, Reconstruction, and modernization, women have played major and defining roles in the development and history of Arkansas. Women of every race, ethnicity, religion, social class, and legal status have been instrumental in shaping the culture and social structure of Arkansas, even as they have been forced to struggle for equal rights, political and legal equality, economic and social independence—even the most basic human right of freedom. Prehistory The first women in Arkansas were likely the descendants of Asians who crossed the land bridge to North America between 18,000 and 10,000 BC. During the Paleoindian, Woodland, Archaic, and Mississippian periods, women farmed, hunted, and …

Women in the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union

The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) was an organization of tenant farmers formed in 1934 in Tyronza (Poinsett County). The union was notable for three things: racially integrating union locals in some areas, relying on evangelical church traditions in meetings, and utilizing the work of women at all levels of the organization. For many women involved in the STFU, the organization served as a springboard into other activism, particularly in the civil rights movement. Women in the union came from all social backgrounds. Society women were active throughout the country, raising money and promoting awareness for the STFU. Women were also crucial at the local level among the sharecropper class, partially because it was necessary for officers to have a certain degree of …

Women’s Action for New Directions, Arkansas Chapter

aka: Arkansas WAND
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women in politics, particularly through social justice, peace, and nonviolence initiatives; Arkansas created its own chapter in the mid-1990s. The organization has its roots in the Women’s Party for Survival, founded by Helen Caldicott, and became known as the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament around 1982, with a focus on denuclearization and reduction of U.S. spending on military and defense. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, the 1980s saw a number of women’s peace and anti-nuclear organizations forming in the United States, including Another Mother for Peace, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), The Ribbon, Grandmothers for Peace, and Peace Links; the latter was formed by …

Women’s Intentional Communities

aka: Women's Land Communities
Women’s intentional communities emerged in the context of the second wave of the women’s movement, encompassing feminist values and environmentalism, as well as the back-to-the-land, hippie, and anti-war movements. The intentional women’s land communities discussed here were located in northwest Arkansas. There may have been others in the state, but their presence has not been documented. (There is no consensus regarding the definition and meaning of “intentional communities.” For the purpose of this entry, women’s intentional communities are defined as including a variety of communal living arrangements based on a shared set of explicit values. Intentional communities are often property based and include land trusts among other types of collective living. In the broader context of individualism, intentional communities are …

Women’s Library

The Women’s Library was formed in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1982. Completely volunteer based and operated, the library lent books, musical recordings, and local and national periodicals that supported women’s rights and self-education. Many of these materials could not be found at Fayetteville’s public library or in local bookstores, and so the library was a central resource for early gender and women’s studies courses at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. The library sponsored special events like book and craft fairs, live music, and poetry readings in its space. In addition, it donated materials to women’s prisons and to the Women’s Project in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The library closed in 2000. The Women’s Library was created by a …

Women’s Project

The Women’s Project began in 1980 in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) as the Arkansas Women’s Training Project (AWTP) and was incorporated as the Women’s Project in 1985. It was founded by Suzanne Pharr, a VISTA volunteer, with Bob Torvestad and Freeman McKendra of VISTA providing its first staff: five VISTA volunteers who were located throughout the state. The organization was sponsored by the Northwest District of the United Methodist Church. Initial funding came from the National Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. A feminist, anti-racist organization, the AWTP worked with women in small towns throughout Arkansas to gain skills to confront local issues. In 1982, the Women’s Project relocated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in …

Women’s Suffrage Movement

After the Civil War, Arkansas leaders began advocating women’s right to vote. Women’s suffrage clubs started to organize, and an Arkansas women’s suffrage movement emerged. These suffragist leaders lectured at meetings, campaigned on street corners, and lobbied the Arkansas legislature for a women’s suffrage law. This campaign ended in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. An Arkansas law proposing women’s suffrage was initially introduced by Miles Ledford Langley of Arkadelphia (Clark County), a representative to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention of 1868. On February 11, 1868, the Arkansas Gazette reported that he made a motion that “all citizens 21 years of age, who can read and write the English language, shall be …

Wright v. Arkansas

Wright v. Arkansas was a case involving same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Beginning with a May 2014 decision by a state district court judge, which overturned Arkansas’s ban on gay marriage, the case was stalled in the courts for the next fourteen months. In response to the original decision, one that came amidst the turmoil that surrounded the issue of gay marriage nationwide, the state attorney general secured a temporary stay of the ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court. Subsequently, additional efforts were undertaken to get a full review by the state’s highest court and then, alternatively, in a special court. A change in the occupants of the offices of both governor and state attorney general contributed to delays, however, and …

Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer was a women’s communal-living farm in Madison County in the 1970s, representative of women’s land groups that existed in northwest Arkansas at that time. The back-to-the-land movement and the women’s movement came together in the early to mid-1970s to create the women’s land movement, self- or nearly self-sufficient land communities organized by and for women. The women’s land movement had many roots, including the hippie and anti-war movements, environmentalism, and feminism, many of which were interwoven. In 1970, founders Trella Laughlin and Patricia Jackson were in Austin, Texas, playing in an “all-girls band,” learning about solar energy, sharing resources and living spaces, and protesting the Vietnam War. Soon afterward, they moved with friends to land in rural Pope County, …