Entries - Gender: Female - Starting with S

Sammon, Winona

aka: Peggy Shannon
Winona Sammon was a stage and cinema actress in the 1920s through early 1940, using the stage name Peggy Shannon. There were high hopes for her career early on, but as it progressed, her roles became smaller and less prestigious. Winona Sammon was born on January 10, 1907, to Edward and Nannie Sammon in the upstairs living quarters over her father’s store on Barraque Street in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She had a younger sister. In late 1923, she traveled to New York City with her mother to visit an aunt, who lived in the same building as Florenz Ziegfeld’s secretary, “Goldie” Glough. Sammon was invited for some publicity pictures with Ziegfeld, who, with famed choreographer Ned Wrayburn, chose …

Samuel, Irene Gaston

Irene Gaston Samuel is best known for her work with the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) that arose in the fall of 1958 during the Little Rock desegregation crisis. Samuel served as the organization’s executive secretary until it disbanded in 1963. Later in her life, she worked as an administrative assistant for Governor (and later U.S. Senator) Dale Bumpers until she retired in 1981. Irene Gaston was born on March 21, 1915, in Van Buren (Crawford County) to Martin Luther and Grace Whitley Gaston. She grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated in 1931 from Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High School). After working for the state Department of Labor and in the …

Sanders, Amy

Amy Sanders was a longtime city clerk for the City of Sherwood (Pulaski County), which named its new Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) branch library in her honor in 1989. A new library building that opened in Sherwood in 2018 retained the name. Amy Sanders was born on August 4, 1924, in Prescott (Nevada County), the child of William Hayes Barnes and Allie Mae Dye Barnes. She married Reo Dale Sanders in Texarkana (Miller County) in 1944, and the couple had two children. They were married for more than sixty-three years, until his death on June 7, 2007. Sanders went to work for the City of Sherwood in the early 1970s and, in April 1973, was appointed to replace a …

Santuario Arco Iris

aka: Arco Iris Earth Care Project (AIECP)
Santuario Arco Iris, an intentional land community located in Ponca (Newton County) near the Buffalo National River in northwestern Arkansas, was founded by Maria Christina DeColores Moroles (also known by her ceremonial names Sun Hawk and Aguila) originally as a sanctuary, or “sacred land space,” for all women and children, particularly women and children of color. Moroles, who identifies as a so-called two-spirit woman of Mexican and Indigenous American descent, has lived on the wilderness preserve since 1976, when she moved there with her five-year-old daughter, Jennifer. Her partner from 1982 to 2011, Miguela Borges, was also instrumental in the development of Santuario Arco Iris and its associated nonprofit organization, the Arco Iris Earth Care Project (AIECP). (Moroles prefers the …

Sawyer, Sophia

Sophia Sawyer, an educator whose calling was to teach the Cherokee, founded the Fayetteville Female Seminary in 1839. This tireless educator was associated with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregational Church. Sophia Sawyer was born May 4 or 5, 1792, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Little is known of her parents, save for the fact that they were extremely poor farmers who eventually bought a farm in New Hampshire. She never married. Dr. Seth Payson, a Congregational clergyman from Rindge, New Hampshire, took Sawyer into his home as a housemaid after her parents died and sent her to school. Sawyer gained teaching experience in the Payson household, teaching basic education during the summer at Rindge but needed …

Schexnayder, Charlotte Tillar

Journalist and state politician Charlotte Tillar Schexnayder co-owned the Dumas Clarion newspaper in Dumas (Desha County) with her husband for more than four decades and served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for fourteen years. She was the first woman appointed to the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Parole, and she was the first female president of the Dumas Chamber of Commerce. She was also president of several associations for professional journalists, including the Arkansas Press Women, the Arkansas Press Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the National Newspaper Association. Charlotte Tillar was born on December 25, 1923, in Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) to Jewell Stephen Tillar and Bertha Terry Tillar. The family moved to McGehee (Desha County) in …

Schoppach, Annie

aka: Annie Adelia Anette Ryerse
Annie Schoppach was the first female graduate of the Medical Department of the University of Arkansas (now the College of Medicine of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences). She practiced medicine in Little Rock (Pulaski County), entering a profession that was almost entirely male dominated. Annie Adelia Anette Ryerse was born in Port Ryerse, Ontario, Canada, on May 3, 1859, the daughter of James and Sarah Ryerse. The Ryerse family was the most prominent family in the area, her great-grandfather having been the lieutenant governor of the Western District of Upper Canada. She experienced a great deal of loss early in her life. Her mother died when she was a small child. Later, her twin sister died. Her paternal …

Scott, Cynthia

Cynthia Scott is a Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist known for her work as one of Ray Charles’s “Raelettes” and for her subsequent solo career. She was named Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State in 2004 and was Wynton Marsalis’s choice for the first person to give a concert in the Lincoln Center’s Rose Room. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. Cynthia Scott was born on July 20, 1951 (some sources say 1952), to the Reverend Sam Scott and Artelia Scott in El Dorado (Union County), the tenth of twelve children—six boys and six girls. She began singing at age four in her father’s church but exposed her ear to secular music by sneaking …

Scott, Dortha Delena Shaw

Dortha Delena Shaw Scott of Mount Ida (Montgomery County) created the design for the Arkansas quarter. Her design was chosen from among more than 9,300 entries in a statewide contest by a panel of ten judges and Governor Mike Huckabee. The final design was unveiled to the public on October 7, 2002, at the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The quarter officially entered circulation October 28, 2003, at Murfreesboro (Pike County). Dortha Shaw was born on January 11, 1936, near Mount Ida. Her parents were Henry and Carrie (Manley) Shaw. Henry Shaw, who died on September 7, 1936, was a carpenter most of his life, and Carrie Shaw was a homemaker. Dortha had five siblings: Gene, Helen, …

Shackelford, Lottie Lee Holt

Lottie Lee Holt Shackelford is a prominent African-American political leader who became the first female mayor of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and commanded leadership roles in the national Democratic Party for three decades. She was an Arkansas delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1980 through 2012, often as a so-called superdelegate, and was chosen to be an automatic superdelegate for the 2016 convention. In addition, she was the longest-serving national vice chair in the Democratic Party’s history. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Lottie Lee Holt was born on April 30, 1941, in Little Rock, one of four children—with two sisters and a brother—of Curtis Holt Sr. and Bernice Linzy Holt. Her father was …

Shaver, Dorothy

Dorothy Shaver was the first woman in the United States to head a multi-million dollar firm. She became president of the prestigious New York City Fifth Avenue firm of Lord & Taylor in 1945 and is credited with much of the company’s success. A trailblazer and a trend setter in her time, her legacy continues today. Dorothy Shaver was born on July 29, 1893, in Center Point (Howard County) to Sallie Borden and James Shaver. Her maternal grandfather was Benjamin Borden, editor of the Arkansas Gazette, and her paternal grandfather was Robert Glenn Shaver, a prominent Confederate officer who served with distinction during the Civil War. When Shaver was five years old, her family moved to Mena (Polk County), a …

Sheid, Vada Webb

Vada Webb Sheid was the first woman to serve in both the Arkansas Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives in a political career that stretched across five decades. Vada Webb was born on August 19, 1916, in Izard County, the only child of J. W. “Bill” Webb and Gertrude Reynolds Webb. Her father was a cattle buyer. She grew up in Calico Rock (Izard County) and graduated from high school there in 1934. She later attended Draughon School of Business in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1935, Webb went to work as Izard County welfare director and then became an interviewer for the state welfare department. She married Carl Sheid of Norfork (Baxter County) on December 31, 1940. They …

Shepperson, Carrie Lena Fambro Still

Carrie Lena Fambro Still Shepperson was an African-American teacher and education advocate in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the mother of composer and musician William Grant Still Jr. Carrie Fambro was born in 1872, near Milledgeville Georgia to Anne Fambro, a freedwoman. Little is known about her family. Her exact birth date, father’s name, and number of siblings are unknown. Encouraged by her mother to pursue her education, she graduated from Atlanta University in 1886. In 1893, while teaching at Alabama State Agricultural and Mechanical College, she met William Grant Still, a colleague who taught bookkeeping, instrumental music, and vocal music. Still was an 1892 graduate of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College at Lorman, Mississippi. The couple married and settled …

Shingu, Nami

Nami Shingu, an American citizen born of Japanese parents, arrived in Arkansas as an internee in a World War II relocation camp and left a decade later after her family’s successful farming endeavors allowed them to return to California. Nami Yoshida was born in San Francisco, California, on January 31, 1918. There is little record of her parents, Japanese natives who had come to the United States seeking new opportunities. The family returned to Japan when Nami was ten years old, but as she grew up, she came to recognize the oppressive nature of the militaristic Japanese government, seeing friends who expressed opposition to its policies suddenly disappear. In the mid-1930s, she met a man living in her village named …

Shirek, Maudelle

Arkansas native Maudelle Shirek was a longtime California-based civic activist who entered the political arena late in life. She won her first race for a seat on the Berkley, California, city council at the age of seventy-one, and when she retired at ninety-two, she was the oldest publicly elected official in the United States. Maudelle Miller was born on June 18, 1911, in Jefferson County, the oldest of ten children of Eddie and Hattie Miller. She grew up on a farm, and her father was a school teacher. The granddaughter of slaves, she once witnessed the lynching of a relative. One longtime friend observed that Maudelle spent the first third of her life cooking, helping with the crops, and getting …

Shoffner, Martha

Martha Shoffner was the Arkansas state treasurer from 2007 until she was forced to resign from office after an arrest on federal charges of extortion and bribery in May 2013. After being found guilty on multiple counts in March 2014, she began serving a thirty-month prison sentence in November 2015. Martha Shoffner was born on July 10, 1944, in Jackson County. One of two daughters of James Edwin Shoffner and Helen Deaton Shoffner, she was raised in Jackson County. After she graduated from Newport High School, she attended Memphis State University and Arkansas State University; she did not earn a degree. Shoffner began work in the private sector, first joining a Little Rock (Pulaski County) advertising firm. In addition, she …

Silitch, Mary Frances

Mary Frances Files Silitch is the first woman to be editor-in-chief of a national aviation magazine. A licensed pilot, she has flown 250 kinds of aircraft and logged 5,000 hours of flight. Mary Frances Files was born on November 9, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William Thomas Files and Johnnie Caldwell Files of Parkdale (Ashley County); she has two sisters. Her first flight was in an open-cockpit crop-duster airplane over the family farm at the age of four. She attended schools in Parkdale and Wilmot (Ashley County) but graduated from All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She attended Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), where she began her journalism career as the managing editor of the Sou’wester, …

Simon, Charlie May

Charlie May Simon is among the state’s most prolific major authors. Known primarily for her children’s literature, with just under thirty books and with numerous short stories to her credit, Simon had a long career writing for adults as well. Additionally, she is known as the wife of Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, John Gould Fletcher. Her work in the field of children’s literature has been honored in Arkansas since 1971 by the annual presentation of the Charlie May Simon Book Award. Simon was born Charlie May Hogue on August 17, 1897, not far from Monticello (Drew County), to Charles Wayman Hogue and Mary Gill Hogue. She was named after both her parents, according to Southern tradition. Her father, a tenant farmer …

Smith, Effie Anderson

Effie Anderson Smith was an Arkansas-born landscape painter and pioneer settler of Arizona. She began painting in southwestern Arkansas, in the style of the Hudson River School. Her mature style, exemplified by her Grand Canyon paintings, emerged after studies with California Impressionists. Born near Nashville (Howard County), on September 29, 1869, Effie Anderson grew up in Hope (Hempstead County). Her mother, Martha Adelia Coulter Anderson, came from a family of planters near Lockesburg (Sevier County). Her father, Major Adolphus Anderson, whose family members were planters in South Carolina, came to southwestern Arkansas in the 1850s as a surveyor and civil engineer. Her parents married in March 1861, before her father joined ten of his brothers in the South Carolina forces …

Smith, Sarah Jane

An enigmatic figure who left few documentable details of her life or wartime experiences, Sarah Jane Smith was a Confederate sympathizer who sabotaged Union military telegraph wires and poles on two known occasions near Springfield and Rolla, Missouri, in 1864. The known details of Smith’s life are limited to information gleaned from court documents, due to her illiteracy (she signed her statement to the provost marshal with an “x”) and lack of a fixed residence. Although several secondary sources describe Smith as a smuggler and saboteur of two years’ duration, there is no documentation of her involvement in any smuggling activity or in any sabotage activities other than the two incidents chronicled in her trial records. Born in approximately 1846, …

Spence, Helen

Helen Ruth Spence of Arkansas County was a famous outlaw and prisoner whose story captured the imaginations of many during her life and engendered a body of legend afterward. She was the focus of unprecedented media coverage in her day, up until her death at the hands of Arkansas prison officials. The July 12, 1934, issues of the Washington Post and New York Times published accounts of Spence’s death on the previous day. The date of her birth aboard a houseboat on the White River near St. Charles (Arkansas County) was listed by the funeral home as February 23, 1912. Arkansas’s houseboat-dwelling “river rats” were eventually expelled from the area as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tamed the White …

St. Scholastica Monastery

St. Scholastica Monastery, a community of Benedictine sisters in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), has been a religious presence in the state of Arkansas since its founding in 1879. Their call is not to any specific work but rather to a life of seeking God through common and private prayer, work, leisure, and extending hospitality in service to the needs of the church and civic community. By living that call, they have impacted the lives of many in the state and beyond in education, healthcare, and social service. The sisters’ contribution includes having staffed three girls’ high schools for boarding and day students; conducting elementary schools; operating four hospitals in rural areas; and caring for children in an orphanage in Pine …

Staggs, Monica

Monica Staggs is an actress best known for her work as a stunt double in numerous films and television shows. Monica Ann Staggs was born on February 24, 1970, in Boulder, Colorado, to Nova Staggs and Thomas Staggs. She has one sister. Staggs spent most of her youth in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated from Sylvan Hills High School in 1988. She then did work in the drama and English departments at both the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as well as attending the University of Central Arkansas in Conway (Faulkner County) for a time. Without completing a degree, in 1996, she took a job as a stand-in …

Stallcup, Mary

Mary Stallcup was the first woman to serve as attorney general of Arkansas, although her tenure was brief. She also served as general counsel and in top administrative roles at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner County). Before she was on staff at UCA, she served in various divisions at the state attorney general’s office. Mary Barbara Stallcup was born on June 21, 1954, in Omaha, Nebraska, as one of six children of Lieutenant Ed Stallcup and Helen Conroy Stallcup. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College in Pineville in 1974, having majored in history, and earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1979. Beyond her admission to the state …

Starr, Belle

aka: Myra Maybelle Shirley
In the late 1800s, Belle Starr was known as a notorious female outlaw in America’s “Old West.” As a resident of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, she came under the jurisdiction of Judge Isaac C. Parker in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Her close friends included the legendary American outlaws Cole Younger and Frank and Jesse James. Her reputation as an outlaw, the novelty of being a woman outlaw, and her violent, mysterious death led to her being called “The Bandit Queen.” Belle Starr was born Myra Maybelle Shirley near Carthage, Missouri, on February 5, 1848. Her father was John R. Shirley, a farmer who later owned a local inn. Her mother, twenty years younger than her husband, was Elizabeth (Eliza) Hatfield …

Steenburgen, Mary Nell

Mary Nell Steenburgen is one of Arkansas’s most celebrated actors. Noted for roles in cinema, television, and stage, she has portrayed a wide range of characters, from the president’s mother, Hannah Nixon, in Nixon (1995) to schoolteacher Clara Clayton in Back to the Future III (1990) and seductress Betty Carver in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). She has won many awards, including an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lynda Dummar in Melvin and Howard (1980). Mary Steenburgen was born on February 8, 1953, in Newport (Jackson County) to Maurice Steenburgen, a freight train conductor, and Nellie Mae Wall Steenburgen, a school secretary. Her family—including a younger sister, Nancy Lynn—moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when she was three …

Stephens, Charlotte Andrews (Lottie)

aka: Lottie Stephens
Charlotte Andrews Stephens was the first African-American teacher in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) school district. She worked as a teacher for seventy years, and Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock was named for her in 1910. In addition, she was the first African American to be accredited by the North Central Association and was a charter member of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) federated club in Little Rock. Lottie Andrews was born in 1854 in Little Rock to William Wallace Andrews, a mulatto slave to U.S. Senator Chester Ashley, and Caroline Williams Andrews, a slave to the Noah Badgett family. The system of urban slavery in Arkansas allowed the Andrews family special privileges. Andrews’s parents were both …

Stern, Jane Rita Ellenbogen

Jane Rita Ellenbogen Stern was a well-known conservationist and environmentalist from Arkansas. She dedicated herself to the preservation of the natural waterways and migratory bird habitats of the state, especially in eastern Arkansas. Jane Ellenbogen was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 2, 1918, to Leonard E. Ellenbogen—owner of a real-estate firm, a clothing store, and a laundry—and Birdie Berger Ellenbogen. She grew up in Little Rock and attended Little Rock public schools. Thereafter, she attended Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock). In 1940, Ellenbogen married Dr. Howard S. Stern; they had two children. In 1948, the Stern family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), an area where much of Stern’s conservationist …

Stickney, Phyllis Yvonne

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney is an actress, comedian, poet, playwright, producer, and motivational speaker best known for her television and film roles in the late 1980s and 1990s. Noted in the twenty-fifth anniversary issue of Essence magazine as one of 200 African-American women who have changed the world, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1998. Phyllis Stickney was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Belle and Felix Stickney Jr. She has publicly been vague about her age, and no available sources offer the year of her birth. Her father was an executive with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the family moved frequently. She has two siblings, one of whom, Timothy, is also an …

Stinson, Katherine

Katherine Stinson, who was living in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) when she began her career as a stunt pilot, was one of the first female pilots licensed in the United States. She also founded the Stinson School of Flying in Hot Springs (Garland County). Stinson was the first woman to master the loop-the-loop aviation maneuver. She is also reported to have been the first person to perform night skywriting with fireworks. She performed her stunts throughout the country and internationally. Katherine Stinson was born in Fort Payne, Alabama, on February 14, 1891, one of four children; her mother’s name was Emma Stinson. As a young woman, Stinson developed an interest in music and intended to pursue a career as a …

Stockard, Sallie Walker

Sallie Walker Stockard was a historian, author, and frontrunner in the equality of women in education. Her book The History of Lawrence, Jackson, Independence and Stone Counties of the Third Judicial District of Arkansas is a valued source of early Arkansas history. Sallie Stockard was born on October 4, 1869, in Alamance County, North Carolina, the oldest of six children of John Williamson Stockard and Margaret Ann Albright Stockard. Her father was a farmer, and her mother took in sewing to earn money to pay for their children’s educations. Stockard entered Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1892, from which she graduated in 1897 with a BA degree. She was one of the first female students to enroll at …

Strong, Anna

Anna Strong was a noted African-American teacher and school principal in Marianna (Lee County). She also served one term as president of the Arkansas Teachers Association (ATA). Strong labored to provide quality education to the African-American citizens of Lee County and was widely recognized for her efforts. Anna Mae Paschal was born in rural Phillips County in 1884 to Chandler and Lucy Paschal. Her father, active in the Religious Society of Friends (generally known as Quakers), was listed in the 1880 census as a miller. Anna Paschal was the oldest of four children and helped her parents to raise her sister and brothers. She began her educational and religious training with the Quakers at the highly regarded Southland School at …

Stuart, Mary Routh McEnery

aka: Ruth McEnery Stuart
Mary Routh McEnery Stuart, working under the name Ruth McEnery Stuart, wrote a body of fiction and poetry based on the experiences she had in Arkansas, modeling characters, dialect, and even a fictional town on her interactions within the state. She was, both financially and critically, one of the most successful fiction writers of her time, and in recent years has been studied by feminist and social literary critics. Routh McEnery was born on February 19, 1852, (according to the date provided on her marriage license; though she may have been born as early as 1849). Her parents were Mary Routh Stirling and James McEnery, who was at that time the mayor of Marksville, Louisiana, where McEnery was born. In …

Stuck, Dorothy

Dorothy Stuck became a newspaper publisher, civic activist, and governmental official in the latter half of the twentieth century. Both as a private citizen and journalist, she was a consistent and unwavering voice calling for equal rights for all in Arkansas in the 1950s and 1960s. Dorothy Willard Davis was born on February 5, 1921, in Gravette (Benton County) to Floyd Davis and Mimi Davis. She spent most of her youth in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and graduated from high school there in 1939. She then returned to Arkansas to attend the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), from which she graduated in 1943. While at UA, she majored in history and was a member of the Pi Beta Phi …

Sullivan, Orean Lencola

Orean Lencola Sullivan of Morrilton (Conway County) broke many color barriers in Arkansas and became a nationally known public figure. She won four scholarship pageants from 1977 to 1980 and was the first African American to win those pageants. She was Miss Morrilton in 1977, Miss University of Central Arkansas in 1978, Miss White River in 1979, and Miss Arkansas in 1980. In September 1980, Sullivan competed in the Miss America Pageant and won the preliminary swimsuit competition. Overall, she was the fourth runner-up in the national pageant, the highest placement achieved by an African-American contestant up to that time. Lencola Sullivan was born on October 29, 1957, to Richard and Macie Sullivan of Morrilton. She was the oldest of …