Wednesday, March 4, 2020

March is Arkansas Women’s History Month

ASA staff helped kick off Arkansas
Women's History Month recently
at the Old State House Museum.
The Arkansas State Archives recognizes March as Women’s History Month.

“Arkansas Women’s History Month is important because it recognizes and highlights women’s accomplishments in all aspects of life and society,” said Dr. David Ware, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives. “This is simple justice for those who have gone before us, and even better, it points the way ahead for the women who will lead us in decades to come.”

Historically, women’s rights were limited in the U.S., which makes historical research into their families and legacies more challenging. As recently as the 1970s, women’s history was largely omitted from school curriculums. Women’s History Week was established in 1978 in response to the lack of history about women in schools, and President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation for National Women’s History Week in 1980. The weeklong celebration turned into all of March in 1987, when Congress declared National Women’s History Month.

In the early days of the 
telephone industry, telephone 
operators were predominantly 
women. This photo shows women 
at the Little Rock Telephone Co. 
on a typical day in 1915. 
Photo courtesy of the 
Arkansas State Archives. 
Patricia Peacock was born in 1938 and
grew up in Stuttgart. She won her first
duck calling contest at 12 years old.
 She was the Junior World Champion in
Duck Calling in 1950. From 1951 to 1955,
 she was the Women's World Champion.
She was the Arkansas State Champion
and the Open World Champion of duck calling
in 1955. This photo is circa 1955 in Stuttgart
and is courtesy of the Arkansas
State Archives. G5257
The Arkansas State Archives helped kick off Arkansas Women’s History Month this past Saturday at the Old State House Museum with a Women’s History Festival organized by the Arkansas Women’s History Institute and the Old State House Museum. The festival focused on Arkansas women in the 1980s.  The State Archives had activities for children and highlighted Arkansas women prominent in the 1980s including Dr. Jocelyn Elders (born 1933), a physician born in Schaall, Arkansas, who became the first woman, Arkansan and African American to be appointed as U.S. Surgeon General; Elsijane Trimble Roy (1916-2007), who became Arkansas’s first woman circuit judge in 1966, the first woman on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1975 to 1977, and the first woman appointed to an Arkansas federal judgeship from 1977 to 2007; Carolyn Pollan (born 1937), who served 24 years in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1975 to 1999 and became the longest-serving Republican and longest-serving woman in the Arkansas House of Representatives’ history; and Jimmie Lou Fisher (born 1941), who is the longest-serving Arkansas State Treasurer, serving from 1981 to 2003.

The Arkansas Women’s Suffrage Commemoration Committee also participated in the event commemorating the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, which went into effect 100 years ago on Aug. 26, 1920.

Effiegene Locke Wingo 
(April 13, 1883 – Sept. 19, 1962) 
was a U.S. representative 
from Arkansas. She was 
elected as a 
Democrat on Nov. 4, 1930, 
after the seat was left vacant 
by her husband’s death. 
In 1934, Wingo cofounded the 
National Institute of Public Affairs 
in Washington, D.C. 
Photo, circa 1930, is 
courtesy of 
the Arkansas State Archives.
Throughout history, Arkansas women have made enormous contributions in religion, arts, education, politics, civil rights and sciences in Arkansas and nationally. These women leaders include Dale Evans, an actress and songwriter who moved to Osceola, Arkansas, at 7 years old before rising to fame as the cowgirl “Queen of the West” and Little Rock born watercolorist Catherine Tharp Altvater, whose work hangs in museums that include The Museum of Modern Art and who became the first woman to hold office in the American Watercolor Society.

Short biographies of significant women from Arkansas are available on the Arkansas Women’s History Institute’s website at

Since 2015, the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame also has recognized the accomplishments and achievements of Arkansas women. The deadline to nominate a woman for 2020 is March 9. Inductees have included performer, poet and author Maya Angelou and Dr. Mary Lowe Good, a renowned chemist, innovator, professor and government leader.

“Without women’s stories, historical narratives are at once flat and lopsided — like long-playing records full of nothing but battles and politics,” Ware said. “Embracing and exploring women’s history shows us a more complex story — it helps us, as a society, sort out what we are and how we became this way.”

The Arkansas State Archives holds historically significant photos, documents and teacher plans on Arkansas women’s history online at For more information, visit the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 215, call 501-682-6900 or email

An American Red Cross Nursing Class poses in Leslie, Arkansas. 
Women were instrumental in the war effort during World War I. 
Standing left to right: Dexter Thomas Morrow, Verlie Kimbrell 
Norman, unknown student, Miss Hart (teacher), 
Ivy Norman Stokes, Willie Leonard, Lillian Britton,
 Gertrude Shipley and Polly Mabrey-Rand-Thomas. 
Seated left to right: Miss Livingston (teacher), 
Florence Porch, Goldie Hilton and 
Hazel Leonard Mabrey. 
Photo, circa 1917-1918, is courtesy of 
the Arkansas State Archives. G3218.04