Gender: Female

Angelou, Maya

aka: Marguerite Annie Johnson
Maya Angelou was an internationally renowned bestselling author, poet, actor, and performer, as well as a pioneering activist for the rights of African Americans and of women. Her first published book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), was an autobiographical account of her childhood, including the ten years she lived in Stamps (Lafayette County) with her grandmother. The popular and critical success of the book was the foundation of her career as an author and public figure, as well as the basis of her identification as an Arkansas author. She was in the first group of inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993. She held over fifty honorary university degrees, along with many other awards recognizing her accomplishments in the …

Anthony, Katharine Susan

Katharine Susan Anthony was suffragist, feminist, pacifist, socialist, and author of feminist and psychological biographies of famous women. Born in Arkansas, she lived and worked as a successful author in Greenwich Village, New York, for more than fifty-five years. She lived a life that was quiet, productive, and not within the parameters of what was considered a typical American woman’s experience. Katharine Anthony was born in Roseville (Logan County) in 1877. She was the third of four children born to Ernest Augustus Anthony and Susan Cathey Anthony. When Roseville’s economy declined, the family moved first to Paris (Logan County) and later to Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Anthony attended public schools in Fort Smith and taught elementary school in the same …

Arkansas Association of Colored Women

aka: Arkansas Association of Colored Women’s and Girls Federated Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women’s Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women, Youth, and Young Adults Clubs, Inc.
The Arkansas Association of Colored Women (AACW) was organized in 1905. Affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which was founded in 1896, the AACW adopted the national organization’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” and was dedicated to improving conditions in African-American communities throughout Arkansas. Its members were middle-class, educated black women from all over Arkansas. Some AACW members also held offices in the national organization. For example, Fort Smith (Sebastian County) resident Mame Josenberger (who was a member of the Phillis Wheatley Club, one of the earliest black women’s clubs in Arkansas, founded in Fort Smith in 1898) was AACW state president from 1929 to 1931 and had served as the NACW’s auditor in the 1920s. The …

Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is composed of a group of well-connected Arkansas women who work to support female Arkansas artists. The committee focuses upon primarily visual art done by noted female artists in the state, though it also sponsors writers, poets, and songwriters. Learning about the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) while on a visit to Washington DC, Ed Dell Wortz, a member of the Wortz family, and Helen Walton of the Arkansas Walton family called together a group of Arkansas women interested in the arts on February 1, 1989, to develop plans for a state committee. The Arkansas Committee of the NMWA was organized in Little Rock (Pulaski …

Arkansas Girls State

aka: Girls State
Arkansas Girls State is a summer program of education that has been sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of Arkansas since 1942. As of 2014, it has provided training for more than 55,000 Arkansas girls in the fundamental aspects of citizenship and practical government. The purpose of Arkansas Girls State is to educate young women of high school age in the duties, privileges, and responsibilities of American citizenship and to provide an opportunity for them to participate in the actual functioning of their government. The National American Legion Auxiliary, which had established a Boys State program in 1935, first sponsored Girls State in 1937–38, and as of 2014, fifty-one departments have such a program. More than 25,000 high school students …

Arkansas Married Woman’s Property Law

Under the common law that prevailed in all American jurisdictions except Louisiana, once a woman married, all her property passed to her husband. During the nineteenth century, some of the American states began to chip away at what Judge Jno. R. Eakin styled “the old and barbarous common law doctrine.” Arkansas played a leading role in this development; in 1835, Arkansas Territory passed the first law in the nation bestowing on married women the right to keep property in their own names. Two factors influenced the law’s adoption. First, in western areas, men outnumbered women, thus giving the women who were there more power. Second, planters were interested in protecting the bequests made to their daughters from being squandered by …

Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW)

The Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) was created to bring together professional women artists, writers, and composers for the protection and sharing of their mutual interests. The Arkansas Branch was the ninth branch to join the National League. The Arkansas Branch, as it was first called, was founded by Bernie Babcock in 1920 with seven charter members. The group’s mission has been identical to that of the National League, which was founded in 1897 in Washington DC, with the purpose of encouraging creative work in art, letters, and music and promoting professional growth of members. The charter of the Arkansas Branch was presented at the first national NLAPW meeting in 1921. Babcock was …

Arkansas Press Women

Founded in 1949, Arkansas Press Women (APW), initially called the Arkansas Newspaper Women’s Association, is a nonprofit professional association open to both men and women pursuing careers in communications. Among those eligible for membership are people in the fields of business, education, government, journalism, and public information. Membership is open to those who communicate in a variety of areas, including broadcasting and electronic media as well as print. Their common thread is a commitment to the rights expressed in the First Amendment, particularly freedom of the press. Within the APW organization, there are professional, retired, and student membership categories. The twenty-six women who were founding members of the organization were interested in promoting professionalism among journalists. APW’s founders and early …

Arkansas Senior America Pageant

The Arkansas Senior America Pageant is Arkansas’s preliminary for the Ms. Senior America Pageant, which is held annually in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Ms. Senior America Pageant was created in 1972 to spotlight women who have reached what organizers call the “Age of Elegance,” exemplifying the dignity and value of all senior Americans. The Arkansas pageant, generally held in June, has been produced since 1988. Until 2018, it was presented annually at the Alma Performing Arts Center in Alma (Crawford County). In 2019, the pageant moved to its new home in Hot Springs Village (Garland and Saline counties), where it attracted a sold-out audience of several hundred people in its first presentation. The Arkansas pageant is open to all …

Arkansas Society, United States Daughters of 1812

The Arkansas State Society, United States Daughters of 1812 (often abbreviated as USD 1812) is affiliated with the National Society, United States Daughters of 1812. It is a non-profit, non-political women’s service organization for descendants of patriots who aided the American cause during the War of 1812. The national organization was founded on January 8, 1892, marking the seventy-seventh anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, which began on January 8, 1815. The American victory in the clash at New Orleans was the last major battle of the War of 1812. With a motto of “Liberty, Fraternity, and Unity,” the National Society USD 1812 is headquartered in Washington DC. In the organization’s forty-three state societies, there are more than 6,000 …

Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA)

aka: Arkansas Equal Suffrage Central Committee (AESCC)
aka: State Woman's Suffragist Association
The post–Civil War era saw the beginnings of major social change in Arkansas concerning race relations and civil rights, temperance, and voting rights for women. Female leaders from other states, often with legal backgrounds, came to Arkansas to advocate for women’s suffrage. They helped set up organizations such as the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which was designed to advocate for suffrage in the Arkansas General Assembly, to encourage related organizations and activities, and to attract press coverage. Two different AWSA organizations, one that existed from 1881 to 1885, and another that began in 1914, were instrumental in promoting women’s suffrage in Arkansas. Because of the suffragists’ work in these and companion organizations, in 1918, Arkansas became the first non-suffrage …

Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame

The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame supports the accomplishments and achievements of Arkansas women through an annual selection process, statewide ceremony, and traveling exhibit. The Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame began in 2015 through a partnership between the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock (Pulaski County). According to Arkansas News, the chamber’s president and CEO, Terry Hartwick, initiated the partnership and subsequent Hall of Fame after realizing that the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame included mostly men. Both contemporary (living) and historical (deceased) women are eligible for induction, as long as they were born in Arkansas or lived in Arkansas for an extended period of time. According to the criteria for induction, …

Arnold, Mary Ann Ritter

Mary Ann Ritter Arnold became president of E. Ritter & Company, one of the most successful family-owned businesses in the state, in 1976. The company, established in the early twentieth century by Arnold’s great-grandfather Ernest Herman Ritter Jr. and based in Marked Tree (Poinsett County), distributes agricultural supplies and telecommunication services throughout northeast Arkansas and north-central Arkansas; it also includes farming and cotton-ginning operations. Arnold became the first female mayor of Marked Tree, was inducted into the Arkansas Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1998, and was an inaugural inductee into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. The only daughter of Louis V. Ritter Sr. and Betty Hart Ritter, Mary Ann Ritter was born on April 25, 1927, in …

Ashley, Eliza Jane

Eliza Jane Burnett Dodson Ashley spent more than thirty years as the cook in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, serving from the administration of Francis Cherry to Bill Clinton. Her 1985 book Thirty Years at the Mansion garnered her national attention. Eliza Jane Burnett was born in Pettus Township in Lonoke County on the Oldham Plantation on October 11, 1917. She was the daughter of William Burnett and Eliza Johnson Burnett. Eliza, who carried the same name as her mother, was often referred to as Liza or Janie. Although she had spent some time in Little Rock (Pulaski County) with her mother as a teenager, she was working on the Oldham Plantation when she married Calvin Dodson in 1933. Louis Calvin …

Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching

In 1930, Texas suffragist and civil rights activist Jessie Daniel Ames and a group of white women in the South founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). The ASWPL’s primary objective was to use white women’s moral and social leverage to educate and persuade southern whites to end the practice of lynching in rural communities. Ames—who was also a member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), which was founded in 1919, and its Director of Women’s Work—sought to create a unique, independent network of organizations for middle-class white Christian women. ASWPL founders were not interested in creating another typical women’s organization, and they rejected federal intervention to end lynching as an affront to states’ …

Babcock, Bernie

aka: Julia Burnelle Smade Babcock
In 1903, Julia Burnelle (Bernie) Smade Babcock became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Authors and Writers Who’s Who. She published more than forty novels, as well as numerous tracts and newspaper and magazine articles. She founded the Museum of Natural History in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a founding member of the Arkansas Historical Society, and was the first president of the Arkansas branch of the National League of American Pen Women. Bernie Smade was born in Union, Ohio, on April 28, 1868, the first of six children, to Hiram Norton Smade and Charlotte Elizabeth (Burnelle) Smade. The Smades raised their children with a freedom uncharacteristic for that time. When Smade’s lively imagination was mistaken for lying …

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Bailey, Marian Breland

Marian (Ruth Kruse) Breland Bailey was a pioneer in the field of animal behavior. Marian and her first husband, Keller Breland, were the first to use operant conditioning technology for commercial purposes. From their Hot Springs (Garland County) farm, the Brelands exported the new technology all over the world. Marian Ruth Kruse was born on December 2, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Christian and Harriet (Prime) Kruse. Christian Kruse owned an auto parts supply house. Harriet was a registered nurse. Marian had one brother, Donald. She was known as “Mouse” to her friends; Marian’s father was the first to call her “Maus,” a common German term of endearment for girls. Later, when Marian met her soon-to-be husband, Keller, he also …

Barton, Dorothy Yarnell

Dorothy Yarnell Barton was a dedicated educator who taught at the secondary level and later as a professor at schools in Arkansas and Louisiana. She was also a prolific writer and wrote on subjects such as education theory, family history, and travel. Dorothy Atwood Yarnell was born on May 6, 1900, in Searcy (White County) to local salesman James S. Yarnell and his wife, Margaret Yarnell. She had one sibling, a brother named James who was born in 1903. She was also first cousin once removed to Ray Yarnell (1896–1974), who began the Yarnell Ice Cream Company in 1933. Dorothy Yarnell spent her childhood and young adult life in Searcy and attended Galloway Women’s College, graduating with a BA in …