Entries - Gender: Female - Starting with P

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 …

Pankey, Josephine Irvin Harris

Josephine Irvin Harris Pankey was a real estate developer, educator, philanthropist, and leader in the African-American community of Little Rock (Pulaski County) for the first half of the twentieth century. Josephine Irvin was born on November 17, 1869, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her parents were William R. Irvin and Katherine Harris Irvin. She was the oldest of their five children. Her father was a self-employed whitewasher, her mother a homemaker. Irvin attended elementary school in Cleveland, including at Oberlin College’s Academy, a preparatory school connected with the college. After graduation, she enrolled in Oberlin College but withdrew because of an illness. She was musically talented and studied at the conservatory that was connected with the academy and the college. By 1892, …

Paris, Twila

aka: Twila Inez Paris Wright
Twila Inez Paris Wright is a prolific contemporary Christian singer, songwriter, pianist, and author who lives in Fayetteville (Washington County). She is the winner of ten Gospel Music Association (GMA) Dove Awards and three American Songwriter Awards and has hundreds of published and recorded songs to her credit. Hymns and choruses she has composed have appeared in such widely varying hymn collections as the United Methodist Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal, as well as those of various Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. Twila Paris was born on December 28, 1958, in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four children of Oren Paris II, the founder of Youth With A Mission ministries and Ecclesia College in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), and Rachel …

Parker, Mamie Aselean

Mamie Aselean Parker is a trail-blazing conservationist. The first African American to hold numerous positions in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), she ultimately served as northeastern regional director of the service. Since her retirement from the USFWS, she has been an active consultant and public speaker. Mamie Parker was born on October 14, 1957, in Wilmot (Ashley County). Her mother, Cora Parker, was a single parent who supported her family as a sharecropper and was determined that her eleven children (of whom Mamie was the youngest) would receive an education. Named after President Dwight Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie Eisenhower, Parker shared her mother’s love of fishing, which ended up shaping her eventual career path. Parker grew up in Wilmot …

Parler, Mary Celestia

Mary Celestia Parler was responsible for developing and implementing the most extensive folklore research project in Arkansas history. She was a professor of English and folklore at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the wife of noted Ozark folklore collector Vance Randolph. Through her vast knowledge and appreciation of Arkansas culture, she enabled many future generations to glimpse the state’s cultural history, much of which remains only in the stories, songs, and images she collected with the help of her students and assistants. Mary Parler was born on October 6, 1904, in Wedgefield, South Carolina, the daughter of a country doctor and farmer, Marvin Lamar Parler, and a local historian, writer, and teacher, Josie Platt Parler. Mary had …

Patterson, Anne W.

Anne W. Patterson was a longtime member of the United States Foreign Service. Over the course of a distinguished career, she served in numerous diplomatic posts, including a lengthy term as interim U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She was promoted to career ambassador, the highest rank in the career Foreign Service, in 2008. Anne Woods was born on October 4, 1949, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to John Davis Woods and Carolyn Ackley Woods. She has one brother. She grew up in Fort Smith and attended the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas, before enrolling at Wellesley College, from which she graduated in 1971 with a BA in economics. She attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina but …

Person, Charline Woodford Beasley

Charline Woodford Beasley Person ran a 5,000-acre cotton plantation in Miller County, Arkansas, after the death of her husband. Person was an active community and church leader, helping build the community church in Garland (Miller County) and steering her hometown through the Great Depression. She was also the only woman chosen to represent Arkansas at the St. Louis Exposition of 1926. Charline Woodford Beasley was born on December 2, 1876, in Lewisville (Lafayette County), the daughter of Charles Hunter Beasley and Lucy Lungren Beasley. Beasley attended Lewisville School, and she was not quite seventeen when she married Levin King Person Jr. (1862–1911) in “Old Lewisville” in 1893. They had three children. In January 1911, Levin Person died suddenly from a …

Peter, Lily

Lily Peter, state poet laureate, was a distinguished author, successful farmer, teacher, musician, conservationist, and philanthropist. Her biographer, Annie Laura Jaggers, called her “an anachronistic symbol of the pioneering spirit of all Americans and particularly of Arkansas, a state that is a haven for contrasts and extremes.” Lily Peter was born on June 2, 1891, to William Oliver Peter and Florence Mobrey Peter in Big Cypress Bayou near Marvell (Phillips County). She was the first of ten children, of whom five did not survive childhood. Peter received much of her early education at home before going to public school. Her father, after experiencing varying degrees of success as a farmer, died in an accident in 1907, leaving Peter to take …

Petit Jean, Legend of

The Legend of Petit Jean is a romantic Arkansas tale that purports to explain the origin of the name of Petit Jean Mountain. Although there are other explanations that are both more logical and more mundane, when someone refers to “The Legend of Petit Jean,” the person is most likely alluding to the romantic one. According to the story, in the 1700s, a young French girl named Adrienne (or, more specifically, Adrienne Dumont) disguised herself as a cabin boy named Jean in order to follow her beloved to the New World. Because of her small size, the other sailors nicknamed her “Petit Jean,” French for “Little John.” At some point after arriving in Arkansas, Petit Jean became ill, although the …

Petticoat Governments

“Petticoat government” is a phrase used to describe a local government—usually a town council and mayor—in which all of the members are female. In May 1920, the same year that the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, giving women the right to vote, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, elected what is believed to have been the first all-woman municipal government in the world, taking the 1916 revolution in Umatilla, Oregon—an election that saw voters elect a female majority to their town council, as well as a female mayor—to the next level. Five years later in 1925, Arkansas voters in Winslow (Washington County) followed suit in an even more resounding fashion, as the increasingly popular resort town elected local newspaper publisher …

Pettigrew, Helen Lyle

Helen Lyle Pettigrew was an author of word puzzles (including crossword puzzles). Her puzzles appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books, including several books for which she was the sole author. She was probably the first Arkansas native to author a syndicated crossword puzzle. Helen Pettigrew was born on October 31, 1894, in Charleston (Franklin County) to Thomas Aldridge Pettigrew, who was a prominent lawyer and educator, and Lucy Lee Ervin Pettigrew. Her father was the son of Charleston Academy founder John M. Pettigrew. She had three sisters and one brother, and was a member of the local Presbyterian Church. Helen Pettigrew was a teacher in the Charleston School District around 1920. Pettigrew’s first known puzzle was a crossword published in …

Pfeiffer, Pauline

Pauline Pfeiffer was a successful journalist who wrote for such magazines as Vanity Fair and Vogue. From 1927 to 1940, she was married to author Ernest Hemingway, being the second of his four wives. At her family’s home in Piggott (Clay County), Hemingway wrote some of the works that would contribute to a 1954 Nobel Laureate in Literature for his contribution to writing. Hemingway credited her as being the best editor with whom he ever worked. Pauline Marie Pfeiffer was born in Parkersburg, Iowa, on July 22, 1895, to Mary Downey Pfeiffer and wealthy businessman Paul Pfeiffer. Pauline was the oldest of the Pfeiffers’ four children; Karl was born in 1900, Virginia (called Jinny) in 1902, and Max in 1907 …

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. Pharr founded the feminist, anti-racist organization the Women’s Project in the 1980s, which worked with women in small towns throughout Arkansas. Suzanne Pharr was born in 1939 in Hog Mountain, 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, …

Phillips, Helen Ann Evans

Ceramist, sculptor, and teacher Helen Ann Evans Phillips played a major role in the development of contemporary crafts in Arkansas. Helen Evans was born on April 18, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Harold S. Evans, a livestock dealer, and Lorna B. Evans, a homemaker. She grew up in Union City, Tennessee, and as a child spent much of her time around farm animals, drawing and making objects, as well as taking private art lessons. These early experiences influenced her sculpture later in life. She began teaching art in the Memphis City school system in 1959 before receiving her BS in painting and art education at Memphis State University in 1961. She married Joe Phillips, a medical student, science teacher, and …

Phillips, Kate

aka: Mary Katherine (Kay) Linaker
Mary Katherine (Kay) Linaker (a.k.a. Kate Phillips) was a veteran stage and screen actress who went on to become a writer of television and movie screenplays. She achieved her greatest notoriety as a writer on the 1958 horror/science fiction classic, The Blob. Kay Linaker was born on July 19, 1913, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Her father owned C. A. Linaker and Company and was a wholesaler for Armour Food Company. Linaker’s father died when she was eleven. When she was twelve, she entered the Hillside School in Norwalk, Connecticut, a boarding school from which she graduated at sixteen. She had already expressed an interest in theater and planned to attend Wellesley College, but the exercise treatments for the polio …

Pike, Annie Zachary

Annie Zachary Pike is a farmer and community activist from Phillips County who became the first African-American appointee to a state board and was later appointed to a variety of federal organizations by President Richard M. Nixon. Annie Ruth Davidson was born on May 12, 1931, in Big Creek in Phillips County to Mississippi-born farmer Cedel Davidson and native Arkansan Carrie Washington Davidson. She was first educated at Trenton Elementary School in Trenton (Phillips County). Later, she attended the Consolidated White River Academy (CWRA), a co-educational boarding school founded in Monroe County by black Baptists in 1893. While at CWRA in the mid-to-late 1940s, Davidson was class secretary and president. She also played baseball and basketball and was a member …

Pittman, Jennie Carr

Jennie Carr Pittman was one of Arkansas’s most prominent and influential figures in the campaign to secure the prohibition of alcohol in the United States. A major force in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the nation’s largest temperance organization, she played a substantive role—at both the state and national level—in the group’s ultimately successful effort to help enact the Eighteenth Amendment. Jennie Carr was born on December 26, 1858 (some sources have it as 1856), in Fredonia—later called Biscoe (Prairie County)—to Charles Turner Carr and his second wife, Susan Wesley Capehart Carr. Not much is known about her youth. While she was christened Mildred Jane, she later went by the name Jennie Mildred Carr until her marriage. On her …

Pittman, Margaret

Margaret Pittman was known worldwide for her pioneering research into the microbiology and immunology of infectious diseases. Her work in developing a vaccine for whooping cough remains the scientific basis (with later improvements) for protecting the children of Arkansas and the world from this potentially deadly disease. Margaret Pittman was born near Prairie Grove (Washington County) on January 20, 1901, to James Pittman, a country doctor, and Virginia Alice McCormick. In 1909, the family moved to the village of Cincinnati (Washington County), where Margaret and her sister sometimes helped with administering anesthesia and vaccinating patients in their father’s practice. After his early death, Virginia Pittman took her children—Margaret, Mary Helen, and James—to Conway (Faulkner County), where she did dressmaking and …

Point of Grace

Point of Grace, which originated in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1990, is a female vocal trio—formerly a quartet—that sings contemporary Christian music. Three of the singers in Point of Grace—Denise Jones, Heather Floyd, and Terry Lang—were life-long friends from Norman, Oklahoma. They had sung together in their church choir and school musicals. The trio enrolled at Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia in 1988. While singing in the “Ouachitones,” an OBU-sponsored group, they met fellow student Shelley Phillips from North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and in 1991, they formed a quartet. Originally, the four named themselves Sayso from a biblical verse in Psalms: “Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so.” The quartet began singing at local churches, retreats, and other …

Pointer, Anita

Anita Marie Pointer is an original member of the singing group the Pointer Sisters. She started singing gospel in her father’s church in West Oakland, California, and went on to attain pop/R&B stardom. The group’s top-ten hits include the songs “Fire,” “Slow Hand,” “He’s So Shy,” “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic,” “Neutron Dance,” and “I’m So Excited.” Anita Pointer was born on January 23, 1948, in Oakland, California, the fourth of six children (four of them daughters) of Elton Pointer and Sarah Elizabeth Silas Pointer. Her parents were Arkansas natives, and Pointer’s two older brothers, Fritz and Aaron, were born in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Shortly thereafter, their parents moved the family to Oakland. The family traveled by car almost …

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 …

Pollan, Carolyn

Carolyn Pollan, a longtime Republican officeholder, served twelve two-year terms and twenty-four years in the Arkansas House of Representatives, making her both the longest-serving Republican and longest-serving woman in Arkansas House history. Carolyn Joan Clark was born on July 12, 1937, in Houston, Texas, to Rex Clark and Faith Basye Clark. After years working in the oil fields in Texas, Rex Clark moved his family to Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), where he worked in the poultry business. Carolyn Clark graduated from Springdale High School in 1955 and then went on to what later became John Brown University, a private Christian college in Siloam Springs (Benton County). She graduated in 1959 but retained close ties with the school, later serving …

Preston, Alice L.

Alice Luberter Walker Preston was an African-American schoolteacher who was instrumental in the peaceful integration of Murfreesboro (Pike County) city schools in 1965. Over her lifetime, she left an enduring legacy in the field of education in Arkansas. Alice Luberter Walker was born on December 16, 1907, in Paraloma (Howard County), the first of two children born to Lizzie Walker and the Reverend R. W. Walker. Because there was no high school for black students in Paraloma or nearby Nashville (Howard County), her family made arrangements for her to live with a cousin, the Reverend Bennie Neal, and his family in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and she attended Fort Smith High School. She later stayed with a cousin in Hope …

Price, Florence Beatrice Smith

Florence Beatrice Smith Price was the first African-American female composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E Minor on June 15, 1933, under the direction of Frederick Stock. The work was later performed at the Chicago World’s Fair as part of the Century of Progress Exhibition. Florence Smith was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 9, 1887, to James H. Smith and Florence Gulliver Smith. Her father was a dentist in Little Rock, while her mother taught piano and worked as a schoolteacher and a businesswoman. As a child, Smith received musical instruction from her mother, and she published musical pieces while in high …

Priest, Sharon

Sharon Priest served as a city director in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and as mayor of Little Rock before being elected Arkansas secretary of state in 1994, the first woman to be elected to that position in the state’s history. She was reelected and also selected to serve as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. After her time as Arkansas secretary of state, she served as executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, working on the revitalization of the city’s Main Street area. Sharon Mary Devlin was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on September 12, 1947, to Daniel Gerard Devlin and Margaret Meehan Devlin. While working for a Canadian distribution company for Munsey Products, based in …

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 …

Pugsley v. Sellmeyer

Pugsley v. Sellmeyer is the title of an Arkansas Supreme Court case that dealt with a disciplinary decision made by the school district of Knobel (Clay County) pertaining to a student being suspended for wearing talcum powder on her face. The case has been cited in other legal actions, namely in students’ rights lawsuits, and appears in various books focusing on these matters. At the beginning of the 1921–22 academic year, Knobel High School principal N. E. Hicks informed a student assembly of new rules of conduct adopted by the district’s school board. One of the mandates prohibited female students from wearing low-necked dresses or immodest clothing, as well as banning cosmetics. Earlier in the day, senior Pearl Pugsley had …

Purcell, Lee

Emmy Award–nominated actress, producer, writer, and director Lee Purcell has starred in numerous films, television shows, and stage productions. At the beginning of her career, she was mentored by legendary movie star Steve McQueen, who said he chose her from about 500 actresses because she “seemed to jump right out of the screen.” Lee Purcell was born Lee Jeune Williams at the Cherrypoint Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina on June 15, 1947. Her father, Major Frank D. Williams Jr., was a highly decorated Marine Corps pilot who was killed while on active duty when she was a child. She was placed into the care of various relatives until her mother, Lee McKnight Williams, married again, this time to …