Gender: Female - Starting with T

Talbert, Mary Burnett

Mary Burnett Talbert was a leading African American civil rights and anti-lynching activist who also served as an educator, a nurse, and a historic preservationist. Mary Burnett was born on September 17, 1866, in Oberlin, Ohio, to Cornelius Burnett and Carolyn Nichols Burnett. As the only African American woman in her 1886 graduating class, she received a BA from Oberlin College, one of the few integrated coeducational colleges in the country. After graduating from Oberlin, she moved to Arkansas, where she taught at Bethel Institute (now Shorter College) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She soon became the assistant principal of Union High School in Little Rock, making her the highest-ranking Black woman in the state in the education professions. In …

Tate, Sonja Patrice

Sonja Patrice Tate, who played basketball at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County) from 1989 to 1993, is one of the finest female athletes in the state’s history. As of 2014, she remains the scoring leader in basketball at ASU, with 2,312 points. In addition, Tate holds the single-season scoring record, with 820 points during the 1992–93 season. She has the top five single-game scoring performances at ASU. Tate also is the only ASU women’s player to have scored forty or more points in a game, a feat she accomplished five times. She returned to ASU prior to the 2012–13 basketball season to serve as an assistant coach for the women’s team. Sonja Tate was born on September 7, …

Taylor Sisters (Lynching of)

Two African-American women known only as the Taylor sisters were killed on Sunday, March 17, 1907, in McKamie (Lafayette County) while they were detained on charges of murderous assault against Ella Roton and her married daughter, Nora Ogelsby. According to some counts, there were only eight women ever lynched in Arkansas, all of them African American, and so this case constitutes a quarter of all such murders in the state. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the two sisters were aged twenty and fifteen. The likeliest pair of women in the area are sisters Suffronia and Lela Taylor, born in 1885 and 1890, respectively. They appear on the 1900 census, living in Steele Township, but not thereafter. The Roton family (the …

Teen Pregnancy

Emerging as a social problem in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s, teenage pregnancy has become a complex issue in the United States and around the globe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arkansas’s state health director Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who later became U.S. surgeon general, made combating teenage pregnancy a major part of public health policy in Arkansas. Despite declines in rates since the 1990s, teen pregnancy remains an important public health issue in Arkansas and elsewhere. From the colonial era through the nineteenth century, the religious and legal concerns associated with teen pregnancy focused less on the parents’ ages and more on whether the parents were wed. Christianity condemned those, especially women, who …

Templeton, Fay

Born into a theatrical family, Fay Templeton excelled on the legitimate and vaudeville stages for more than half a century. As an actress, singer, and comedian, she was a favorite headliner and heroine of popular theater. Fay Templeton was born on December 25, 1865, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where her parents were starring with the Templeton Opera Company. John Templeton, Fay’s father, was a well-known Southern manager, comedian, and author. Helen Alice Vane, Fay’s mother, starred with her husband. At age three, Templeton, dressed as Cupid, sang fairy tale songs between the acts of her father’s plays. Gradually, she was incorporated into the productions as a bit player and then, at five, had actual lines to recite. At eight, …

Terry, Adolphine Fletcher

Adolphine Fletcher Terry was a civic-minded woman from a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) family who used her position to improve schools and libraries, start a juvenile court system, provide affordable housing, promote the education of women and women’s rights, and challenge the racism of the Old South. Terry pushed for social change in the early years of the civil rights movement and may best be known as the leader of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC). Adolphine Fletcher was born on November 3, 1882, in Little Rock to John Gould Fletcher and Adolphine Krause Fletcher. Her father worked in the cotton business and in banking and served terms as sheriff of Pulaski County and city mayor. …

Thaden, Louise McPhetridge

Louise McPhetridge Thaden was an aviation pioneer and holder of numerous flight records during the late 1920s and 1930s. At one point, she was the most famous female American aviator only after Amelia Earhart. Louise McPhetridge was born in Bentonville (Benton County) on November 12, 1905, to Roy McPhetridge, a travelling Mentholatum salesman who taught Louise to hunt, fish, and fix a car, and Edna McPhetridge, a housewife. She had one sister. Raised on the family farm, McPhetridge discovered an early interest in aviation long before learning to fly. A ride in a plane with a barnstormer fuelled her desire to fly. After attending local public schools, McPhetridge attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) from 1922 …

Thanet, Octave

aka: Alice French
Alice French was a leading writer of local color stories and journalistic essays under the pseudonym Octave Thanet. Some of her best work is based on the years she spent at her winter home in Clover Bend (Lawrence County) in the Black River swamp country. French also published stories and essays in such national periodicals as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Scribner’s Magazine, and Century Magazine. She prided herself on the accurate depiction not only of the physical setting of her stories but also of the customs and dialect of the characters in them. Alice French was born on March 19, 1850, in Andover, Massachusetts, to George Henry French and Frances Morton. The French family also included sons George, Morton, Nathaniel, and …

Tharpe, “Sister Rosetta”

aka: Rosetta Nubin Tharpe
Arkansas native Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label (Decca), and an early crossover from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by numerous musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Arkansan Johnny Cash. Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) on March 20, 1915, to Katie Bell Nubin Atkins—an evangelist, singer, and mandolin player for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC)—and Willis Atkins. She went by the first names Rosa, Rosie Etta, and Rosabell, and used both her father’s last name and her mother’s maiden name, Nubin. She began performing at age four, playing guitar and singing …

Thebom, Blanche

Blanche Thebom was a world-renowned operatic soprano, opera director, and educator. With her trademark six-foot-long hair, she was among the first American opera singers to have a highly successful international career, spending more than twenty years with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She also appeared in Hollywood feature films. Thebom conducted a groundbreaking tour of the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. After retirement from the Met, she brought her talents to Arkansas when she taught and directed opera productions at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) for almost a decade. The daughter of Swedish immigrants, Blanche Thebom was born in Monessen, Pennsylvania, on September 19, 1915. She was raised in Canton, …

Thomas, Ruth Harris

Ruth Harris Thomas was a highly regarded amateur ornithologist whose column on birding in Arkansas was published by the Arkansas Gazette for about forty years. Her column not only documented area birds, but it also contributed to a growing appreciation for birds, birding, and habitat conservation. Ruth Harris was born in Kentucky on August 25, 1900, to Charles O. Harris and Columbia B. Cox Harris. She had two brothers. Majoring in English and journalism, Harris graduated from Louisiana State University in 1923, where she also edited the student newspaper. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the autumn of 1923 to work as a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette newspaper. In 1927, she married Maine native Stanley Powers Rowland …

Thurman, Sue Bailey

Author, lecturer, historian, and editor Sue Bailey Thurman was a pioneer in civil rights and equality long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her contributions in her advocacy, writings, and speeches helped lay a foundation that many others have built upon. Sue Elvie Bailey was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on August 26, 1903, one of ten children of educators Rev. Isaac Bailey and Susie Ford Bailey. Her parents emphasized education, religious instruction, and missionary work. They helped to found the forerunner of what became Morris Booker Memorial College in Dermott (Chicot County), a private college funded by African-American Baptists throughout the state. She completed her high school studies at Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia, …

Tomkievicz, Shirley Jean Abbott

aka: Shirley Abbott
Shirley Jean Abbott Tomkievicz, a magazine editor and writer, achieved her greatest fame for her three volumes of memoirs, which detail the story of her family history and her own coming of age in Hot Springs (Garland County): Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South (1983), The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound (1991), and Love’s Apprentice: The Education of a Modern Woman (1998), all written under the name Shirley Abbott. Critics  lauded her books as well-written examinations, not only of her own life, but of the South in an age of transition. Even after becoming a resident of New York, Abbott continues to write about Arkansas for a wide audience in magazines and newspapers. She once commented, “I learned to respect and …

Tompkins, Rosie Lee

aka: Effie Mae Martin Howard
Rosie Lee Tompkins was the assumed name of Effie Mae Howard, a widely acclaimed African-American quiltmaker whose prodigious talents catapulted her to the forefront of contemporary art. As New York Times critic Roberta Smith put it, “Tompkins’s textile art [works]…demolish the category.” Effie Mae Martin (Effie Mae Howard was her married name) was born in Arkansas on September 6, 1936, to Sadie Bell and MacCurey Martin. The oldest of fifteen half-siblings, she grew up picking cotton and helping her mother piece quilts in rural Gould (Lincoln County), where poverty forced the family to use every available scrap of cloth. Howard never completed high school. She moved to Richmond, California, in 1958 and took courses in nursing at various local institutions, …

Top of the Rock Chorus

The Top of the Rock Chorus is the Little Rock (Pulaski County) chapter of Sweet Adelines International, the female barbershop singing group. The chorus was formed on February 7, 1961, and two original members sang with Top of the Rock until 2005. The group was originally called Little Rock Chorus and was renamed Top of the Rock Chorus in the 1980s. It is composed of about sixty women—ages twenties to eighties—who rehearse weekly and compete annually against other female choruses and quartets in Region 25 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas), the Heart of America Region. Sweet Adelines International was formed on July 13, 1945, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A few women wanted to participate in the “chord-ringing, fun-filled harmony” that their husbands—members of …

Travis, Kathryne Bess Hail

Kathryne Bess Hail Travis was an artist and teacher who was especially known for her still-life paintings of flowers. For a three-year period in the late 1920s, she and her then-husband, artist Olin Travis, ran the Travis Ozark Summer Art School near Cass (Franklin County). Kathryne Bess Hail was born in Ozark (Franklin County) on February 6, 1894. She was the only child of Albert Eugene Hail, who owned a general store, and Maude (Brown) Hail. Her education was financed and closely supervised by a wealthy uncle, Oliver Brown. She studied art in high school and graduated with honors from Galloway College in Searcy (White County) in 1911. She briefly attended a girls’ school in Chicago, Illinois, before enrolling in …