Entries - Gender: Female - Starting with R

Ragon, Imogene McConnell

Imogene McConnell Ragon was a well-known twentieth-century Arkansas educator and plein air (outdoor) artist. Her paintings have been exhibited throughout Arkansas and nationally. Today, she is best remembered for her watercolors of native wildflowers and landscapes, and her architectural renderings of historic buildings all around Arkansas and the Ozark Mountains. The dogwood and the magnolia are among her most popular subjects. Imogene McConnell was born on May 21, 1887, in Clarksville (Johnson County) into the pioneer family of Edward Taylor McConnell and Alice Adele Porter McConnell. She was the third of four children. In 1894, when she was six years old, her father was appointed superintendent of the Arkansas prison by Governor William Meade Fishback. The family moved to Little …

Ray, Mary Lee McCrary

Mary L. Ray spent thirty-seven years educating African Americans. She applied the self-help approach she learned at the Tuskegee Institute to formal education in private and public schools, and then in informal education as the first African-American female employee of the “Negro” division of the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service—that is, the first black home demonstration agent in the state. Mary Lee McCrary’s birth year and early life remain a mystery. During the late nineteenth century,  as African Americans faced increased assaults to their civil liberties, many turned to capitalism, another American ideal, as visible evidence of citizenship. McCrary apparently embraced this approach. She learned the self-help philosophy from one of the most celebrated advocates of the approach, Booker T. Washington, …

Read, Lessie Stringfellow

Lessie Stringfellow Read was an early champion of women’s rights, a writer for six national periodicals of her day, a correspondent for two large newspapers, and a newspaper editor herself. She was a founder of the Women’s Suffrage Association of Washington County and was an officer for the local Red Cross during World War I. In addition, she served many years as national press chairperson for the largest women’s organization of the early twentieth century, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Lessie Read was born Mabel Staples on January 3, 1891, in Temple, Texas, to William and Lillian Staples. Both her parents died from a fever when she was two years old, and the renowned horticulturist Henry Martyn Stringfellow and …

Rhodes, Emma Kelly

Emma Kelly Rhodes is a prominent educator and social activist who has established a series of nonprofit education centers across Arkansas. Using her own life as an example, she worked to increase access to education, especially for those who have dropped out of high school. Rhodes has sought to give these people the education and training necessary to allow them to recast their lives. Emma Kelly was born on May 9, 1937. Growing up in a family of fourteen, she was a tenth-grade dropout at age fifteen, a mother at sixteen, and a widow at twenty-nine. Despite all this, she reared and educated seven children, each of whom earned at least a degree from a technical college, with a number …

Rice, Jenny Eakin Delony

aka: Jenny Delony
aka: Jenny Meyrowitz
Jenny Eakin Delony Rice was the first woman artist from Arkansas to rise to national and international prominence as a painter and the founder of collegiate art education in Arkansas. Though Delony specialized in portraiture, her subject matter included miniatures, landscape, wildlife, still life, and genre (scenes of everyday life). Jenny Delony was born in Washington (Hempstead County) on May 13, 1866, to Alchyny Turner Delony, a capitalist, lawyer, and educator, and Elizabeth Lawson Pearson Delony, a teacher. She had four siblings. The Delony family lived in Washington until 1885, when they moved to Nashville (Howard County). In 1890, the Delonys moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). After finishing elementary schooling in Washington, Delony attended Wesleyan Female Institute (Stuart Hall) …

Riddle, Almeda James

Discovered by a ballad collector in the 1950s, Almeda James Riddle of Greers Ferry (Cleburne County) became a prominent figure in America’s folk music revival. Her memory of ballads, hymns, and children’s songs was one of the largest single repertories documented by folksong scholars. After two decades of concerts and recordings, she received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts for her contributions to the preservation of Ozark folksong traditions. Almeda James was born on November 21, 1898, in the community of West Pangburn (Cleburne County). She was the fifth of eight children of J. L. James, a timber worker, and Martha Frances Wilkerson. In 1916, she married H. Price Riddle and started family life near Heber …

Ridge, Sarah Bird Northrup

Sarah Northrup Ridge, who married Cherokee leader John Ridge, was part of the forced removal of the Cherokee, culminating in the notorious Trail of Tears. Settling in Fayetteville (Washington County) after the murder of her husband, she was instrumental in establishing the town’s reputation as an educational center. Sarah Bird Northrup was born on December 7, 1804, in Cornwall, Connecticut, to Lydia Camp Northrup and John Prout Northrup, steward of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions School in Cornwall, which accepted Cherokee students. The Cherokee, primarily from Georgia, were assimilating in many cases into the white population. By the early 1800s, the Cherokee adopted Christianity, were residing in the same kinds of homes as the whites, raised the …

Riley, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield

The earliest recorded Arkansas woman to use a hyphenated name after her marriage, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield Riley, owned and edited the Cleveland County Herald in Rison (Cleveland County) during the 1890s and again early in the twentieth century. She exemplified the progressive spirit among Arkansas women. Sallie Irene Robinson was born in Tennessee on January 5, 1873, to William B. Robinson and Laura Pettey Robinson. One of her mother’s sisters, Adah Lee Pettey, married newspaperman Leon Roussan of the Osceola Times. Robinson lived with her aunt and received her early training in that office. In 1892 or 1893, she moved to Rison, where she set type for George H. Tisdale at the Cleveland County Herald and shortly thereafter purchased the …

Risley, Eleanor de la Vergne Doss

When the Arkansas State Library sponsored an event for supporters in 1939, librarian Vera Snook wrote Eleanor Risley, hoping to entice her to attend. Other honored guests were John Gould Fletcher, Charles J. Finger, and Charles Morrow Wilson. Risley’s inclusion on the list is an indication of the importance attached to her reputation as a nationally recognized Arkansas writer. Risley’s two novels, The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Southern Mountaineering (1930) and An Abandoned Orchard (1932), had been published by Little, Brown and Company and were critically well received. Between 1928 and 1931, The Atlantic Monthly magazine published a series of Risley short stories about rural southern mountain life. The May 1931 Atlantic Monthly piece “Drought,” which was set …

Rivers, Diana

Diana Rivers is an author, artist, and promoter of women’s communities and art venues. Rivers has published numerous short stories and eight novels in the genre of speculative fiction, seven of which compose the Hadra series. Rivers lives in Madison County. Diana Rivers was born Diana Duer Smith on October 17, 1931, in New York City and grew up in suburban New Jersey near Morristown. Her parents, Schuyler Smith and Elizabeth Larocque, separated before she was three years old. Her mother wrote poems and stories, publishing a book of verse, Satan’s Shadow, in 1930. Rivers’s great aunt Caroline King Duer was a poet and an editor for Vogue magazine, and her other great aunt, Alice Duer Miller, wrote poems, stories, …

Roaf, Andree Yvonne Layton

Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was an Arkansas attorney and jurist. A 1996 inductee to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Roaf distinguished herself in the fields of biology, law, and community service. Andree Layton was born on March 31, 1941, in Nashville, Tennessee. The daughter of William W. Layton, a government official, and Phoebe A. Layton, an educator, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in White Hall and Muskegon Heights, Michigan. She had two sisters. She graduated from high school in Muskegon in 1958. Originally intending to pursue a career in the biological sciences, she attended Michigan State University and received a BS in zoology in 1962. While an undergraduate, she met, and subsequently married in July 1963, another …

Robertson, Irene

Irene Robertson was an interviewer and writer for the 1930s Federal Writers’ Project in Arkansas. She preserved the life stories and experiences of former slaves—or, in some cases, their children—then living in the counties of Crittenden, Lee, Monroe, Phillips, Prairie, and St. Francis. Using her straightforward style of reporting, she prepared 290 out of a total of 300 slave narratives produced in the above counties. She also prepared approximately 116 narratives from interviews with older white residents. Irene Robertson was born in May 1893, possibly in Troy in Greenwood County, South Carolina, near the “Hard Labor” section of Edgefield County, where her parents had lived. Robertson’s father, Samuel Elisha Robertson, a farmer, was born in Edgefield County; he was a …

Robinson, Fatima

Fatima Robinson was described in the New York Times as “one of the most sought-after hip-hop and popular music choreographers in the world” and was once named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 most creative people in the world of entertainment. Her dance choreography has been featured in numerous music videos, movies, and television shows. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2004. Fatima Robinson was born on August 29, 1971, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At four years of age, she left Arkansas with her mother, Kadijah Furqan, and two younger sisters, moving to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from high school at age sixteen and started to work in her mother’s hair …

Robinson, Hester Buck

Hester Buck Robinson was one of the largest landowners in Prairie County when she died. Her husband once remarked to a friend that she had a “financial brain” and had made more money since they married than he ever made. Hester Buck was born in January of 1896, probably in Wattensas Township, near DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), to William Buck, a farmer, and his wife, Celia. Her father’s older brother, Thomas, had a grocery store at DeValls Bluff. She taught school for a time before her marriage to Elias Brooks (E. B.) Robinson on June 22, 1921. Her grandfather, Silas Buck, owned land a few miles above DeValls Bluff at a point on the west bank of White River that …

Rockefeller, Jeannette Edris

Jeannette Edris Rockefeller was a socialite, arts promoter, and civic activist. She was first lady of Arkansas (1967–1971) during Winthrop Rockefeller’s terms as the state’s thirty-seventh governor. Jeannette Edris was born on July 13, 1918, in Seattle, Washington, to William Edris—a high-profile capitalist of Spokane, Washington—and Frances Skinner Edris, who died during the birth of the family’s second daughter. After the death of her mother, Edris found herself under the strong influence of her grandmother, socialite Jeannette E. Skinner (her namesake), who was the wife of capitalist David Skinner, co-founder and president of Skinner & Eddy Shipyard. During her elementary school years, Edris often traveled with her grandmother to places such as Pasadena, California, and Port Maitland, British Columbia. At …

Rogers, Betty Blake

Betty Blake Rogers was the wife of Will Rogers, one of the most beloved entertainers of the twentieth century. In addition to her roles as wife and mother, she managed the family’s finances, a job made difficult by Will’s enormous success and generous nature. She was a partner in his career, encouraging him to start on the lecture circuit and helping him choose film scripts. Betty Blake was born on September 9, 1879, at Silver Springs, later called Monte Ne (Benton County), to James Wyeth Blake, a miller, and Amelia Crowder Blake. Her father died when she was young, and the family moved a few miles north to Rogers (Benton County). Betty was seventh in a family of nine, and …

Rosenzweig, Irene

Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) native Irene Rosenzweig earned a doctoral degree from Bryn Mawr College in classics, received the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome, and tutored members of the family of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After a teaching career near Washington DC, Rosenzweig returned to Pine Bluff, where she was a benefactor of Trinity Village Medical Center. A biennial art exhibition named in her honor supports the permanent collection of the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas through an endowment left by Rosenzweig. Irene Rosenzweig was born in Pine Bluff on July 26, 1903, to Pauline Sarason-Rosenzweig and William M. Rosenzweig. She had one sister. Her father had emigrated from Lithuania, from an area near …

Ross, Jane

Jane Ross was a prominent businesswoman and philanthropist in Clark County. She served in the Women’s Army Corps of the Army Air Force during World War II. Ross owned a photography studio in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and operated her family’s timber enterprise. She also received several awards and honors during her lifetime. Jane Ross was born in Arkadelphia on December 23, 1920, to Hugh Thomas Ross and Esther Clark Ross. She had one sister. She grew up in Arkadelphia and graduated from Arkadelphia High School in May 1938. Ross graduated from Henderson State Teachers College (now Henderson State University,) with a BA in May of 1942. Ross worked as a Navy photographer in Washington DC for six months in 1943. …

Ross, Quatie

Elizabeth “Quatie” Ross was the first wife of Cherokee chief John Ross. In local folklore, she is best known for giving her blanket to a sick child while traveling through Arkansas on the Trail of Tears, after which she died of pneumonia. Despite almost no evidence to support it, the legend of Quatie Ross has endured since the 1890s. Today, frequent visitors leave rocks, coins, and other gifts on her gravestone at Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Elizabeth Brown was born in the Old Cherokee Nation in modern-day Georgia in 1791 to Thomas Brown and Elizabeth Martin. Not much is known about her childhood. She married and had a child with a man named Robert Henley; after …

Roussan, Adah Lee Pettey

Adah Lee Pettey Roussan was a pioneering newspaperwoman who took over the Osceola Times after the death of her husband, running it for twelve years between 1906 and 1918. An indefatigable progressive, she championed political reforms and societal betterment. Adah Lee Pettey was born on July 20, 1859, in Navarro County, Texas, the third of six children of Dr. Francis Marion Pettey and Sarah A. G. Elliot Pettey. In 1870, Dr. Pettey moved his family to Mississippi County, where he practiced medicine. On April 14, 1879, Adah Pettey married Leon Roussan, a printer who had worked at the office of the Ste. Genevieve Plain Dealer and other newspapers. In 1870, he had been one of the three founders of the …

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 …