Entries - Gender: Female - Starting with J

Jackson, Gertrude Newsome

Gertrude Newsome Jackson was a local activist in the Marvell (Phillips County) area who, along with her husband, Earlis, played a central role in the local civil rights movement. She was widely recognized for her long-term efforts on behalf of the community’s young people and its minority members. Gertrude Newsome was born on November 7, 1923, in Madison, Illinois, to Mitchell and Lillie Newsome. When she was seven, her paternal grandfather died, and the family moved to Gum Bottom, an area in Phillips County, Arkansas, near the Turner community, so that her father could help operate the family’s small Arkansas Delta farm. One of eleven children—six boys and five girls—she got her early education in Marvell, walking miles to a …

Jeannette, Gertrude Hadley

Throughout her career, Gertrude Hadley Jeannette was a playwright, producer, director, and actress with roles on Broadway. Involved in the civil rights movement, she also became a rare woman taxicab driver in New York. Retired after a seven-decade theater career, she remained active in the New York theater scene. Jeannette was a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Gertrude Hadley was born in Urbana (Union County) on November 28, 1914, to Willis Lawrence Hadley and Salley Gertrude Crawford Hadley. She attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and had plans to attend Fisk University. Instead, she eloped in 1934 to New York City with Joe Jeannette II, a prizefighter and president of the Harlem Dusters, a motorcycle club. …

John, Mary

Mary John was born a slave under French colonial occupation, and after obtaining her freedom in 1840, she opened a hotel at Arkansas Post and became a prominent local figure. Mary John was born around the latter part of the 1780s. She may have been Marie Jeanne, whom Etienne de Vaugine bequeathed to his granddaughter, Pelagie, in his will dated September 1, 1794, at New Orleans, Louisiana (although the 1850 federal census lists her as having been born in Arkansas). Little is known about her early life. A bill of sale written in French by notary Andre Fagot at Arkansas Post on July 30, 1806, records that Marie Languedoc transferred ownership of a “creole negress” named Marie Jeanne to Jean …

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, Celesta Fern

Celesta Fern Jones was an American gospel singer, songwriter, and musician. Compared by some music writers to Patsy Cline, she is best known for her song “I Was There When It Happened,” which was recorded by Jimmie Davis, Johnny Cash, and others. Despite her talents as a singer and a flare for rockabilly, she recorded only one full album (under the name Fern Jones) and retired from the music business at a relatively young age. Fern Salisbury was born on April 6, 1923, in Oil City, Louisiana. She was the daughter of Tennessee native Charles W. Salisbury, whose father was from England. Charles Salisbury served in the army during World War I as a private. Her mother was Zula Annie …

Jones, Edith Irby

Edith Irby Jones was the first African American to attend and to graduate from the University of Arkansas Medical School, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Not only was she a pioneer in the desegregation of higher education in Arkansas and the South, but she also served as a highly successful doctor, educator, and philanthropist in Arkansas, Texas, and overseas. Edith Irby was born on December 23, 1927, near Conway (Faulkner County) to Robert Irby, a sharecropper, and Mattie Buice Irby, a maid. Her father died when she was eight, and the family moved to Hot Springs (Garland County). Irby’s older sister died of typhoid fever at the age of twelve, largely …

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 …

Jones, Maxine Temple

Maxine Temple Jones was a Hot Springs (Garland County) businesswoman during the period from 1945 to the early 1970s. A well-known madam with numerous political connections, she managed a lucrative brothel operation that catered to politicians, businessmen, and mobsters. She documented her life in an autobiography published in 1983 titled Maxine “Call Me Madam”: The Life and Times of a Hot Springs Madam. Dora Maxine Temple was born on June 15, 1915, in Johnsville (Bradley County) to David F. Temple and Maude Orr Temple. She had five brothers and one sister. Her father was a farmer and logging contractor. When referring to her early youth, Temple described herself as a “tomboy” who preferred spending time with her father in the …

Jones, Myra

Myra Jones was a political activist and governmental official as well as an entrepreneur in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the latter part of the twentieth century. Throughout two decades in elective office, Jones made a substantive impact on the direction of both Little Rock and the state, becoming the first woman elected to the Little Rock Board of Directors and later serving from 1985 through 1998 in the Arkansas General Assembly. Myra Lee Gutsche was born on March 8, 1936, near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to Ernest and Edith Gutsche. She was raised on a ranch in Belle Fourche, which was north of Rapid City. She learned to drive a tractor at an early age and was active in …

Jones, Paula

aka: Paula Jones McFadden
Paula Jones is a one-time Arkansas government employee. Her lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by Governor Bill Clinton ultimately led to a landmark Supreme Court decision in Clinton v. Jones and subsequently to Clinton’s impeachment as president in 1998. Paula Rosalee Corbin was born on September 17, 1966, in Lonoke (Lonoke County) to Church of the Nazarene pastor Bobby Gene Corbin and his wife, Delmer Lee; she had two sisters. She was educated in Lonoke before graduating from high school in nearby Carlisle (Lonoke County). She later began working in the Arkansas government. It was while she was working for the state that the incident that would later bring her to national attention allegedly occurred. Jones’s lawsuit alleged that she was …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …

Jordan, Lena Lowe

Lena Lowe Jordan was an African-American registered nurse and hospital administrator who managed two institutions for African Americans—a hospital for the care of crippled children, which later became a general hospital. In addition, she began a unique training program for young black women who wanted to become practical nurses. Lena Lowe was born on April 6, 1884, in Georgia, to Hollin and Martha Lowe. She spent her childhood in Georgia and then trained as a nurse at the Charity Hospital of Savannah. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Cordele, Georgia, in the 1920s and began her career as a registered nurse in Arkansas as head nurse at the Mosaic State Templars Hospital in 1927. In 1920, she became …

Josenberger, Mame Stewart

Businesswoman and activist Mame Stewart Josenberger started her career as an educator but, after her husband’s death, assumed control of a variety of businesses. She also served as president of the Arkansas Association of Colored Women and was on the advisory board of The Crisis, the renowned publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in addition to involvement with a variety of local, state, and national organizations. Mame Stewart was born on August 3, 1872 (although some sources say 1868), in Owego, New York, to Virginia natives Frank Stewart and Mary Elizabeth Turner Stewart. After attending the Owego Free Academy in New York, Stewart earned a BA in education at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, …