Gender: Female - Starting with M

Maddox Seminary

In 1898, the Reverend Alvin Stewart Maddox established the Maddox Seminary for young women in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The school lasted less than a decade before closing, with Maddox relocating to Eureka Springs (Carroll County), where he opened Crescent College in 1908. In the summer of 1898, yellow fever was raging in Mississippi, where Maddox was serving as the president of the Union Female College of Oxford, a position he had held for four years. He was planning for the fall semester at the college, had hired faculty, had had a catalog printed, and was traveling the state promoting the college. Some students had already committed to enroll, but while he was away from Oxford, the town was quarantined, …

Mailer, Norris Church

aka: Barbara Jean Davis
Norris Church Mailer, born Barbara Jean Davis, became an artist, actress, and author after moving to New York City to be with renowned writer Norman Mailer following their brief chance meeting in Arkansas at an event in Russellville (Pope County). She published two semi-autobiographical novels, Windchill Summer and Cheap Diamonds, as well as a memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, which centers on her three-decade marriage to Mailer. Born on January 31, 1949, in Moses Lake, Washington, Norris Church Mailer began life as Barbara Jean Davis, being named for a little girl who lived next door. Her parents were homemaker Gaynell Phillips Davis and construction worker James Davis. They had briefly relocated from Arkansas to Washington state for her father’s …

Mapes, Doris Genevieve Williamson

Doris Genevieve Williamson Mapes became one of Arkansas’s leading mid-twentieth-century artists. Adept in a variety of paint media, she was best known as a watercolorist who used bold, bright colors with strong patterns and abstract designs. Mapes’s style was described as imaginative realism. Memphis’s Commercial Appeal art critic Guy Northrop wrote that Mapes had a loose and airy flair. “There is a freshness to her world,” Northrop said, “and an expression of joy.” Doris Williamson was born on June 25, 1920, in Russellville (Pope County), the only child of Floyd Henry Williamson, who was a farmer, and Ruby Harvill Williamson. Her interest in art began at an early age with her father’s regular purchase of the Denver Post at the local …

Maples, Cheryl Kathleen Smith

Cheryl Maples was a prominent attorney in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and throughout the state. An outspoken champion of equal rights for all, she was particularly well known for her work on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. Cheryl Kathleen Smith was born on March 2, 1950, in Santa Monica, California, to Harvey Smith and Patricia Ware Smith. She lived in Pacific Palisades until 1962, when her family moved to Arkansas, eventually settling in Fayetteville (Washington County). Smith graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1968 and married Richard Maples, a student at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, that same day. The couple had two sons and three daughters. In 1980, at the age thirty, Cheryl Maples began college, studying …

Marinoni, Rosa Zagnoni

Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni was poet laureate of Arkansas from 1953 to 1970. A prolific poet herself, she worked to promote a greater appreciation of poetry, to establish an annual Poetry Day in Arkansas, and to encourage poets in her own time and place. Rosa Zagnoni was born in Bologna, Italy, on January 5, 1888, and came to the United States with her parents in 1898. They lived in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Antero Zagnoni, was a journalist and drama critic. Her mother, Maria Marzocchi, was a poet and artist, and her uncle, Federico Marzocchi, was also a poet. She married Antonio Marinoni in Brooklyn on July 30, 1908, and moved to Fayetteville (Washington County), where her husband was on …

Markwell, Lulu Alice Boyers

Lulu Markwell was the first Imperial Commander for the national Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK) organization and president of the Arkansas chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Lulu Alice Boyers was born in Corydon, Indiana, on October 1, 1865. She was the only daughter of Benjamin Boyers, who was a carpenter, and his wife, Phoebe Mathes Boyers, who was a housekeeper. Boyers attended Corydon public schools before enrolling in Bryant & Stratton Business College in Louisville, Kentucky (now Sullivan University). The nationwide chain of colleges was prominent during the era, with alumni such as Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller. After she graduated, Boyers’s professional career began in Little Rock (Pulaski County), including four years in …

Martin, Paula Marie

Paula Martin is a writer and educator best known for her work as the host and producer of the radio show Tales from the South. Paula Marie Martin was born on October 9, 1967, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Her family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) when she was twelve, and she has lived there periodically throughout her life. She graduated from Little Rock’s Parkview High School. In the late 1980s, Martin and schoolmate Jason Morell, who had begun dating after graduation, sold all their belongings and moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where they began working in a restaurant. The couple married and had three children. As they pursued their dream of opening a restaurant, they traveled and …

Martin, Roberta Evelyn

aka: Roberta Evelyn Winston Martin Austin
Roberta Evelyn Winston Martin Austin was one of the most significant figures during gospel music’s golden age (1945–1960). A performer and publisher, she reached iconic status in Chicago, Illinois, where she influenced numerous artists (such as Alex Bradford, James Cleveland, and Albertina Walker) and had an impact on an entire industry with her innovation and business acumen. Roberta Evelyn Winston was born in Helena (Phillips County) on February 12, 1907, one of six children of William and Anna Winston, proprietors of a general store. She began studying piano at age six. Her family relocated to Cairo, Illinois, before she was ten, after arriving in Chicago in 1917, Winston played for various church functions, working with Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father …

Massey, Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth Massey was a history professor noted for her early studies of women in the Civil War, years before women’s history courses became common in university history departments. Her books have continued to be important decades after their publication. Mary Elizabeth Massey (she used her full name throughout her life) was born on December 25, 1915, in Morrilton (Conway County) to Mary McClung Massey and Charles Leonidas Massey. After graduation from Morrilton High School, she attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County). For multiple years, Massey was president of her sorority (in an era when Hendrix had fraternities and sororities), and she served on the Interfraternity Council, the dormitory council, and the Student Senate, in addition to serving one-year …

Massey, Mary Elizabeth Smith

Mary Elizabeth Smith Massey—businesswoman, public official, and civic and political leader—was a woman with an average, middle-class, mountain background, meaning her family neither depended upon subsistence farming, sharecropping, or seasonal labor in the Arkansas River bottoms, nor did they have a big store in the county seat or hundreds of acres let to sharecroppers. She became an early Arkansas female success story in the period from 1920 to 1930, when Arkansas women were just beginning to assume prominence in state and national life. In the 1950s, she reaped the results of her early endeavors by serving as Worthy Grand Matron of the Arkansas Order of the Eastern Star and by being admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. …

Mathis, Deborah Myers

Deborah Mathis is an acclaimed journalist and author who has been a reporter and columnist for newspapers and a television reporter and anchor. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Deborah Myers was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 24, 1953. Her father, Lloyd H. Myers, was a businessman and Baptist minister, while her mother, Rachel A. Helms Myers, was an educator. She has several brothers and sisters. Myers attended Gibbs Elementary, Rightsell Elementary, and Westside Junior High, graduating from Little Rock Central High in 1971. She got her start in journalism at the Central school newspaper as the first female and first African-American editor. Rather than leave home to go to college, …

Mayfield, Mary Victor (M. V.)

Mary Victor (M. V.) Mayfield came to Mena (Polk County) in 1918 and practiced medicine with the identity of a man for seven or eight years. A small, kind, and peaceful citizen, Mayfield soon became “the cancer doctor.” Mayfield put Mena in the national news for the events of January 23, 1926, when it was revealed by the news media that Mayfield had the biological characteristics of a female. Little is known about M. V. Mayfield’s early life. Mayfield later claimed that the male identity had begun in England—Mayfield’s parents needed a son, not a daughter, to “protect property rights,” so they dressed Mayfield as a boy. Mayfield carried this on into adulthood, also doing things society expected of men, …

McCoy, Kerrin Lou Krouse (Kerry)

Kerry McCoy is an Arkansas entrepreneur who founded Arkansas Flag and Banner, Inc. (now FlagandBanner.com) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1975. McCoy is publisher of Brave Magazine and host of the radio show Up in Your Business, and she also drew wide acclaim for overseeing the restoration of the historic Dreamland Ballroom. Kerrin Lou Krouse was born on September 27, 1954, in Little Rock to Edwin Ormond Krouse and Sara Lee Rhea Krouse. Her parents met during World War II while her father was serving in the military and had married in Walla Walla, Washington. After the war, the couple moved to Little Rock and had three children. There, Ed Krouse dabbled in many small businesses. The family moved …

McCoy, Rose Marie

Rose Marie Hinton McCoy broke into the white, male-dominated music business in the early 1950s to become a highly sought-after songwriter whose career lasted over six decades. More than 360 artists have recorded her tunes, including Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, and Sarah Vaughan. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame in 2018. Marie Hinton was born in Oneida (Phillips County) on April 19, 1922, to Levi Hinton and Celetia Brazil Hinton. She and her older brother and sister attended the area’s two-room elementary school, went to church regularly, and worked on the forty-acre farm their parents rented. Though Oneida was located in the Mississippi Delta, often referred …

McDermott, Lillian Dees

Lillian M. Dees McDermott was a social worker and community leader in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She made great strides to improve the juvenile courts, schools, and the field of social work. Referred to as the “dean of social workers in Arkansas,” she was the first person in Arkansas to become a certified professional social worker. Lillian Dees was born to Hardy Scott Dees, a farmer and businessman, and Mary Frances Pace Dees on October 4, 1877, near Little Rock. After attending Little Rock public schools, Dees graduated with a degree from Galloway Female College in Searcy (White County), which merged with Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1933. She later served on the Board of Trustees for Hendrix …

McDiarmid, Clara Alma Cox

Clara Alma Cox McDiarmid was Arkansas’s foremost nineteenth-century women’s reformer. She supported suffrage, temperance, women’s education, and the women’s club movement. Active locally and nationally and concerned about women’s inequalities under the law, she also supported cultural activities in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and farther afield. Clara Cox was born on December 11, 1847, the second of six children in a prominent Noblesville, Indiana, family. Her father’s mother was renowned preacher Lydia Sexton of New Jersey, the first female chaplain for Kansas State Prison. Her mother was Catherine Rowan Allison of Ohio. Her father, John Thomas Cox of Ohio, was a surveyor who moved his family to Coffey County, Kansas, in 1857, where he laid out the town of Ottumwa, …

McDougal, Susan Carol Henley

Susan Carol Henley McDougal became famous in the 1990s for refusing to testify before Kenneth Starr and the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) grand jury held in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the Whitewater scandal investigation. She was imprisoned for almost two years, before ultimately being found not guilty and released. Susan Henley was born in 1955 in Heidelberg, Germany, to James Henley, a U.S. Army sergeant originally from Camden (Ouachita County), and Laurette Mathieu Henley, a native of Belgium. Susan grew up in Camden, the middle child of seven, and attended public schools. She entered Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) at Arkadelphia (Clark County) in the fall of 1972 on a Latin scholarship. At OBU, she met Jim McDougal, then …

McDougall, Jo Garot

Jo Garot McDougall is a poet of the Arkansas Delta. Her work is noted for its sparseness and evocation of small-town life. Her poems are subtle portraits of the lives of rural families, farmers, housewives, and the struggles and tragedies they face. She has won many prizes for her work, which has been published in books, literary journals, and anthologies. In 2018, she was named Poet Laureate of Arkansas, serving in that role until 2022. Jo Garot was born on December 15, 1935, and raised near DeWitt (Arkansas County). Her father, Leon Joseph Garot, was a rice farmer. Her mother, Ruth Maurine Merritt Garot, was a secondary education teacher. She has one sister, Nancy. Garot grew up on a rice …

McGraw, Patricia Washington

Patricia Washington McGraw, a scholar, professor, and author, has made a significant impact throughout the country and the world as an educator and African-American cultural preservationist. Patricia Washington was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William and Ruth Washington, natives of Danville (Yell County), on May 6, 1935. While she was growing up in a time of school segregation and Jim Crow laws, her parents instilled in her the value of education and the importance of embracing her African-American heritage. In 1953, she graduated from all-black Dunbar High School in Little Rock. McGraw graduated from San Francisco State College in California in 1957 and earned a master’s degree in American literature from the college in 1967. She was the …

McLarey, Myra Dell

Howard County native Myra Dell McLarey is a teacher and an author of a wide variety of works, many influenced by her childhood in southwest Arkansas. She is best known for her 1995 debut novel Water from the Well, a semi-autobiographical work of fiction set in the fictional town of Sugar Springs, Arkansas. Myra Dell McLarey, the youngest of five children, was born on September 5, 1942, in Okay (Howard County), the company town of the Okay Cement Plant, to Charles Drowns McLarey Jr. and Josie Earline Fincher McLarey. Her father was a supervisor at the cement plant as well as a deputy sheriff and the elected constable of the Saratoga-Okay township; her mother was a homemaker and later a …

McMath, Betty Dortch Russell

aka: Betty Dortch Russell
aka: Betty Russell
Betty Dortch Russell McMath became Arkansas’s most prominent portrait artist during the second half of the twentieth century. Her commissions included governors, judges, literary figures, and numerous business, civic, and social leaders. Beyond portraiture, her paintings seized the everyday moments of small-town life in Arkansas and chronicled its plantation culture. She produced portraits of five Arkansas governors, including Sid McMath, who was her second husband. Betty Ruth Dortch was born on July 14, 1920, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the daughter of Steele Dortch and Mabel Wittenberg Dortch. She had one sister, Judith. The family lived on 1,200 acres near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties) in a home her father built. The house was situated on Bearskin Lake about one …

McRaven, Florence Emily McGraw

Florence McRaven of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1927 to 1930. Florence Emily McGraw, sometimes called Floy, was born on May 11, 1877, in Tate County, Mississippi, the third of fifteen children of Catherine Ophelia Babb McGraw and Daniel Murdock McGraw. The family moved to Franklin County, Arkansas, in 1878 and settled a homestead claim on the Big Mulberry Creek near Cass. Daniel McGraw was appointed Franklin County deputy sheriff and was elected county surveyor, serving for twelve years; he later became the superintendent of the Western Coal and Mining Company coal mine at Denning (Franklin County). Growing up in Altus (Franklin County), McGraw obtained her education in the preparatory department …

Meahl, Helen Mae Eidson Buchanan

Helen Meahl served in the Fifty-fifth Arkansas General Assembly, representing Nevada County, from 1945 to 1946. She later served as a professor of sociology in Tennessee and Pennsylvania.  Helen Mae Eidson was born in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties) on September 3, 1912, one of four children in the family of Robert Anson Eidson, who was a farm laborer, and Ruby Ann O’Neil Eidson, a homemaker. After graduating from Springdale High School in 1931, she lived with an aunt and uncle in Oklahoma for a year then attended Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee for one semester.  Moving back and enrolling at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), Eidson was vice president of the Home Economics Club, president of the Baptist Student Union, active in the YMCA, on the editorial staff of Arkansas Agriculturalist magazine, and named Who’s Who in Ag School, one of four senior women …

Medearis, Mary Myrtle

Though she always considered herself a musician, Mary Myrtle Medearis was best known as the author of Big Doc’s Girl (1942), a novel that grew out of an assigned autobiographical short story in a creative writing class. It has the distinction of having stayed in print longer than any other work of fiction by an Arkansan. Ever tenacious, Medearis had great success as a writer and historian in spite of her humble beginnings—and partly because of them. Mary Medearis was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) on May 31, 1915. Her mother, Myrtle Hendricks, taught piano. Her father, Dr. Robert Medearis, practiced medicine. Mary, whose maternal grandparents had been vaudeville performers, inherited her family’s love for music. By the …

Meyer, Rhena Salome Miller

aka: Goat Woman of Smackover
Rhena Salome Miller Meyer—better known as “the Goat Woman”—lived in Smackover (Union County) for over fifty years. Her sometimes reclusive nature, numerous pet goats, and considerable musical talents as a “one-woman band” all contributed to her folk-figure status in the region. Rhena (sometimes spelled Rhene) Miller was born in Orwin, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1905. Her father, John R. Miller, was a Quaker who worked on a dairy farm and had a traveling medicine show that promoted the Seven Sisters Hair Tonic. He is said to have used young Rhena as a model in advertising the hair-growth tonic; however, as with much of her life story, no evidence has been found for this. Her mother, Katie Kessler, was an opera …