Entries - Gender: Female - Starting with D

Daniel, Lucy Jane

In the late 1800s, it was so unusual for women to be stone carvers that The Monumental News, a trade journal, was able to locate only three to write about—one of whom was Lucy J. Daniel, formerly of Arkansas. The others were from Kansas and Canada, and all had learned the trade from their fathers. The journal article noted that Daniel had been fully in charge of the family’s marble shop since 1885, doing all the lettering, and some cutting and polishing, of the tombstones. Her only known sculpture is the Goddess of Liberty statue at Pea Ridge National Military Park. Lucy Jane Daniel was born in May 1865 in Carter County, Kentucky. Her mother was Rebecca Jane (Remy) Daniel, …

Daniel, Thase Christine Ferguson

Thase Christine Ferguson Daniel of El Dorado (Union County) was an internationally known nature and wildlife photographer. During a career that spanned the 1950s to the 1980s, her work appeared in major publications and magazines, including Field and Stream, Ranger Rick, and Reader’s Digest. Thase Ferguson was born on December 5, 1907, the daughter of C. Curran Ferguson and Daisy Moore Ferguson of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She graduated from Ouachita Baptist College, now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), with a BA in music in 1929. While at Ouachita, Ferguson met fellow student John T. Daniel of Arkadelphia (Clark County). They were married on June 29, 1930. The Daniels lived in El Dorado, where John owned and operated an automobile dealership. …

Daughters of the American Revolution

aka: Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR)
The Arkansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (ARDAR) is a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), which has 2,975 chapters in the United States and twenty-two international chapters. The NSDAR was founded on October 11, 1890, by Eugenia Washington, a grandniece of George Washington, along with Mary Desha, Mary Lockwood, and Ellen Hardin Walworth. In December 1893, the first Arkansas chapter of the DAR was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Georgiana Washington Smith, another grandniece of Washington’s, was one of its earliest members. The first ARDAR State Conference was in February 1909 at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock (Pulaski County). ARDAR members have made lasting contributions to the …

Davis, Erma Lee Glasco

Erma Lee Glasco Davis is a historian, civic leader, and educator. She is best known for preserving and communicating the legacy of her alma mater, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Junior College (the building is in use in the twenty-first century as Dunbar Magnet Middle School), and highlighting the impact this historically black institution had in Arkansas. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Erma Lee Glasco was born on December 31, 1928, in Eagle Township of Pulaski County, near Keo (Lonoke County), to Anderson Glasco and Rodelia Glasco. Her father was a stone and masonry contractor, a deacon at Mount Zion Baptist Church, a member of the Arkansas Minority Contractors Association, and a former …

Davis, Gail

aka: Betty Jeanne Grayson
Gail Davis was an Arkansas-born actress who starred as the legendary sharpshooter in the groundbreaking TV Western series Annie Oakley, which ran from 1954 through 1956. She appeared in thirty-two feature films, was guest on a number of TV shows, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and was a role model for young women. Gail Davis was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County). When her father became the state health officer, the …

DeMent, Iris 

Arkansas native Iris DeMent has used her distinctive voice to sing folk, country, bluegrass, and gospel music. She has written songs about family, religion, people, places, and political ideas in a time when few were doing so. Iris DeMent was born on January 5, 1961, in Paragould (Greene County), the youngest of fourteen children. Her parents, Patrick Shaw and Flora Mae DeMent, were farmers on an island in the St. Francis River outside Paragould. When Iris was three, her father lost his factory job after a failed attempt to unionize, and the family hit hard times, sold the farm, and moved to Buena Park, California. They lived there until she was seventeen and then moved to Sacramento, California. Eventually, her …

Dewees, Mary

A renowned reformer and advocate for prisoners’ rights, Mary Dewees was the first superintendent of the Arkansas State Farm for Women, the state’s first women’s prison, from 1920 to 1924. Mary Dewees was born on July 5, 1895, to Thomas B. Dewees and Lillie Dewees in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Bucknell University, where she studied social work and became well versed in the latest forms of progressive penology, especially ways to reform so-called wayward women. Dewees became director of education at New Jersey’s Clinton Farms reform school for women in 1918. At the age of twenty-five, Dewees was recruited by Grace Robson, another women’s reform pioneer who helped organize New Jersey’s first women’s reformatory in 1913. The following year, …

Dickey, Betty

Betty Clark Dickey is a former chief justice and justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. She became the first woman to serve as the court’s chief justice. Betty Clark was born in Black Rock (Lawrence County) on February 23, 1940, to Millard Morris Clark and Myrtle Norris Clark. She grew up in nearby Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County), graduating as valedictorian from Walnut Ridge High School in 1958, where she played forward on the girls’ basketball team. She went on to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she studied education, graduating in 1962 with a BA. She married Jay Woodson Dickey Jr., a lawyer from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) who later served as the Fourth District congressman …

Dillon, Melinda Rose

Melinda Rose Dillon is an American actress who has appeared in dozens of movies, plays, and television shows. She has been nominated for several major awards, including an Academy Award and a Tony Award; in addition, the Screen Actors Guild recognized her for her role in Magnolia (1999). Other memorable films include Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), A Christmas Story (1983), and Harry and the Hendersons (1987). She has also appeared on television in episodes of Bonanza and the TV movie A Painted House (2003). Melinda Dillon was born on October 13, 1939, in Hope (Hempstead County). Information about her early life is sparse, as Dillon remains an intensely private person. She studied acting with both Lee Strasberg …

Ditto, Beth

aka: Mary Beth Patterson
White County native Beth Ditto is the singer and songwriter for Gossip, an indie, dance-punk band based in Portland, Oregon. Ditto is also known for being a model and fashion designer who promotes positive body image, as well as for her outspoken support of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights. In 2006, she became the first woman voted “Coolest Person in Rock” by NME, a long-running British music magazine. She also released her first solo album in 2017. Beth Ditto was born Mary Beth Patterson on February 19, 1981. She was raised by a single mother, Velmyra Estel, and grew up in Judsonia (White County), near Searcy (White County); she did not know her father and was given the last name …

Dixon, Martha

Martha Smith Dixon is an internationally recognized clothing designer and entrepreneur. Her designs of couture gowns worn by Hillary Clinton during Clinton’s husband’s 1987 gubernatorial inauguration and 1993 presidential inauguration helped launch her career in fashion design and sales. Dixon is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Martha Smith was born in Clark County on February 2, 1946, the seventeenth of twenty children of James G. Smith and Beatrice Cook Smith, impoverished cotton pickers and sharecroppers in the South Central community in Clark County. She attended public school in Gurdon (Clark County) when work allowed and graduated from Peake High School in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1965. The first in her family to attend college, she spent …

Dockery, Octavia

Octavia Dockery was a writer, socialite, and eventual recluse who became embroiled in the “Goat Castle Murder” case in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1932. The case garnered national and international headlines when she was accused of having murdered her neighbor, Jennie Merrill. Dockery was never tried for the murder, owing to the fact that Merrill’s actual murderer was killed by Arkansas police before Dockery could be brought to trial. Her story, nevertheless, provides an excellent example of Southern Gothic come to life. Octavia Dockery was born at Lamartine Plantation in Columbia County, Arkansas, in 1865, the daughter of Brigadier General Thomas Pleasant Dockery, who commanded the Nineteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and Laura Octavia West Dockery. She was …

Dodd, Bonnie Modena

aka: Little Blossom
Arkansas native Bonnie Dodd (a.k.a. “Little Blossom”) was a musician and songwriter best known as a steel guitar player in Tex Ritter’s country and western band during the 1940s. She also was a prolific composer of traditional country songs such as the genre-spanning recitation “Be Careful of Stones That You Throw,” which was recorded by Hank Williams in 1952 and by many others. The Staple Singers’ version of the song is included on the soundtrack of the film Bastard out of Carolina (1996). Bonnie Modena Dodd was born in rural Saline County on January 9, 1914. She was the fourth and youngest child of Elmer Pemberton Dodd and Louanna Iona Tillery Dodd. At the time of her birth, her family …

Dodd, Sonora Louise Smart

Sonora Louise Smart Dodd is known as the “Mother of Father’s Day.” She began trying to make Father’s Day an officially recognized holiday in 1909. Sonora Smart was born on February 18, 1882, in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), the daughter of William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, and Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart. She was the oldest of six children and the only girl. When Smart was five years old, her family left Arkansas and settled in Spokane, Washington, where she lived for the rest of her life. In 1898, her mother died in childbirth, and Smart helped her father raise her younger brothers. Smart married John Bruce Dodd, an insurance agent, on November 4, 1899, and they …

Dodge, Eva Francette

Eva Francette Dodge was a pioneer physician, educator in obstetrics and gynecology, and advocate for maternal health care and sex education for young people in Arkansas and the United States. Her influence was felt worldwide through her work with the Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance (PAMWA) as an obstetrical consultant. Dodge was adamant in her belief that birth control was a right of women and that sex education was to be provided for all youth. Eva Dodge was born on July 24, 1896, to George Dodge and Winnie Worthen Dodge in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Her father was a physician who greatly influenced her choice of medicine as a career. She was the eldest of three daughters. Dodge graduated from …

Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association

Dodson v. Arkansas Activities Association (1979) was a federal court decision concerning the rules for girls’ junior high and high school basketball in Arkansas. Diana Lee Dodson, then a fourteen-year-old student in the Arkadelphia (Clark County) public school system, filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA), the governing body of public and private school athletic programs, asking that girls in Arkansas be permitted to play under the same full-court basketball rules as Arkansas boys played. Arkansas schools at that time required that basketball for girls be played under “half-court” rules. In this version of the game, which had been played in Arkansas and other states since at least the World War II era, girls’ teams had six players. …

Dragonwagon, Crescent

aka: Ellen Zolotow
Crescent Dragonwagon, born Ellen Zolotow, is the author of approximately fifty books and was one of the founders of Dairy Hollow House, one of the first bed-and-breakfast establishments in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her children’s books and her writings on food and cooking have won many awards. Ellen Zolotow was born on November 25, 1952, in New York City. Her mother, Charlotte Zolotow, was a writer and editor of children’s books. Her father, Maurice Zolotow, wrote biographies of celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Billy Wilder. Zolotow attended school in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, but did not finish high school. She left home when she was sixteen years old, married Mark Parsons on March 20, 1970, and lived in a commune …

Dresbach, Beverley Githens

Beverley Githens Dresbach was a poet and journalist who lived in Eureka Springs (Carroll County) with her husband, poet Glenn Ward Dresbach. She was active in the cultural life of Eureka Springs and in the activities of the Arkansas community of poets and writers in her time. Beverley Githens was born in Wilmette, Illinois, on July 4, 1903, to John Nichols Githens and Elizabeth Beverley Barr Githens. She was educated in Chicago, Illinois, at the Bayeson School in 1919, the University of Chicago in 1927–28, and the Sherwood Music School in 1929–30. Details about her life in Illinois are sketchy. She worked at Carson’s, a Chicago department store—at first selling women’s dresses and then as an elevator operator in the …

Duncan, Virginia Maud Dunlap

Virginia Maud Dunlap Duncan was the second woman in Arkansas to secure a registration as a pharmacist. As a young businesswoman and editor of a newspaper, she ran for mayor of Winslow (Washington County) with an all-woman slate for city council. This “petticoat government” was elected to two consecutive terms and gained national attention during its time in office. Maud Dunlap was born on October 22, 1873, in Fayetteville (Washington County) to Dudley Clinton and Catherine Hewitt Dunlap. Her mother died when Dunlap was an infant. She and her brother, Rufus, went to live with her uncle Albert Dunlap and his wife, Virginia, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Other foster parents raised Dunlap’s sister and other two brothers. Dunlap’s foster …

Dusenbury, Emma Hays

Emma Hays Dusenbury was an outstanding traditional singer; her work is represented by some 116 songs in the nation’s leading folksong archive at the Library of Congress. Emma Hays was born on January 9, 1862, probably in Habersham County or Rabun County, Georgia, to William Jasper Hays and Mary Jane Pitts. She came to Arkansas with her parents and four siblings in 1872, staying first in Crittenden County but eventually settling in Baxter County, near Gassville. Sometime after 1880, she married Ernest Dusenbury, who was from Illinois. Two years later, they had a daughter. In about 1894 or 1895, she suffered a serious illness that left her blind. Before settling near Mena (Polk County) in about 1907, Dusenbury lived an itinerant life; …

Dye, “Aunt Caroline”

aka: Caroline Tracy Dye
Caroline Tracy Dye, better known as “Aunt Caroline,” was a highly respected seer whose name was recognized in Arkansas and the Mid-South in the early years of the twentieth century. The fact that she was an uneducated African American made her popularity at the time all the more unusual. Caroline Tracy’s parents’ names are unknown, and there has been an abundance of conflicting information through the years about her date of birth and early life. A 1918 obituary described her as being eighteen years of age at the start of the Civil War, which would put her born around 1843; however, the 1880 census records age as twenty-seven, which would put her birth year at 1843. Her tombstone records her …