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Encyclopedia Of Arkansas Minute: The Women Of The Ku Klux Klan

The women’s auxiliary of an American terrorist group had its headquarters in Little Rock.

The Women of the Ku Klux Klan was formed on June 10, 1923, with temperance activist Lulu Markwell as its imperial commander. Within a year the organization claimed a quarter million members in 48 states.

Markwell resigned in 1924 and Robbie Gill replaced her; Gill married state Klan leader James Comer a year later.

The WKKK held ritualized initiations and circulated screeds promoting the Klan’s nativist, racist philosophy. A power struggle in 1925 led to lawsuits that exposed the group’s finances, showing that the Comers “squandered $70,000 of WKKK funds, equipping WKKK headquarters with goldfish, songbirds, police dogs, flowers, and a piano and purchasing for their own use a $5,000 sedan.”

The women’s Klan splintered and its fortunes faded with those of the male group. By 1930, membership in both had dwindled to fewer than 50,000.

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Mark Christ produces and hosts Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute on KUAR. He is head of adult programming for the Central Arkansas Library System. He previously served as community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which he joined in 1990 after eight years as a journalist.