Arkansas History

The February 1883 debate by the Little rock Eclectic Society sheds light on a variety of male attitudes about suffrage for women. One of the debaters, Rabbi Benson of B’nai Israel in Little Rock, said this: “It is woman’s [duty] to love, cherish, and obey,” and “These masculine women traveling about the country crying for woman’s rights are a disgrace to their sex.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: C.B. Moore And The Eclectic Society Debate

Aug 6, 2019

On Tuesday, February 6, 1883, the Little Rock Eclectic Society held a debate on women’s suffrage. This debate provides a snapshot of the attitudes of a variety of male Arkansans. It began with an essay presented by Major Charles B. Moore, a former Confederate soldier and current State Attorney General.

The wilds of Washington County near Strickler are home to an unusual facility: a decommissioned nuclear reactor.

The Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor, or SEFOR, was completed in 1969 to test whether breeder reactors, which use fast neutrons to create more fuel than they consume, could be used to produce electricity. Though it never achieved that purpose, SEFOR did show that plutonium could be used as reactor fuel instead of uranium.

Mississippi County Community College – now Arkansas Northeastern College – was once in the vanguard of solar energy use.

In 1976, the U.S. Department of Energy chose the fledgling campus to receive the Total Energy Solar Photovoltaic Conversion System, which would generate electricity and hot water. Through the $8.8 million project, 270 solar collectors, each measuring twenty by seven feet, were installed, and the main building was designed with vaulted glass ceilings and wind-breaking devices for energy efficiency.

A 1905 fire devastated downtown Hot Springs and brought a new look to the town’s architecture. Hot Springs was a tourist mecca in the early 1900s, with some coming for the healing waters and others for the rampant illegal activities.

Mosaic Templars
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which tells the story of African-Americans in Arkansas, is striving to raise $3 million to renovate its educational exhibit space. The museum opened in 2008 in a spot that was once the heart of Little Rock’s black community.

During a ceremony Monday with Gov. Asa Hutchinson at the state Capitol, backers of the fundraising campaign accepted the museum’s largest-ever corporate donation. Union Pacific Railroad, which employed about 2,600 people in the state as of last year, gave $300,000 toward the campaign.

Arkansas artist Adrian Brewer was initially reluctant to accept a commission on what became his most famous painting. Little Rock insurance man Clyde E. Lowry approached Brewer about painting the American flag “when the wind had died down and the gentle folds took their natural place.” Brewer had a thriving practice painting commissioned portraits of prominent Arkansans, but ended up accepting Lowry’s offer.

A Camden furniture merchant was responsible for a phrase we see every time we open our wallets. Matt Rothert, Sr., was born in Indiana in 1904 and moved to Camden twenty years later. He founded the Camden Furniture Company, serving as its president until he retired in 1975. But his true love was coin collecting, a passion he developed when he found his father’s old coins.

Union Civil War veterans formed a fraternal organization after the war that had a surprisingly strong presence in Arkansas. The first Grand Army of the Republic post was founded in Illinois in 1866, and African American veterans formed some of the earliest posts in Arkansas around the same time.

While it was likely a stunt to promote tourism in the area, the short-lived Ozark Golden Wedding Jubilee did recognize long-term marriages as couples renewed their vows. Sponsored by the Rogers Chamber of Commerce, the jubilee celebrated fifty-year marriages while also recognizing a newlywed “honor couple” that would get a week-long honeymoon in Rogers.

Arkansas was one of the first states to recognize a married woman’s right to own property, but it took a half century. Common law held that a married woman’s property would pass to her husband, which concerned fathers who feared their daughters’ bequests could be squandered by worthless husbands. The Territorial Legislature recognized women’s rights to own property in 1835, but the law did not pass into statehood. Governor Archibald Yell vetoed a property law in 1840, fearing that giving women rights would destroy the family.

Arkansas law barred interracial relationships from the territorial period up to the twentieth century, when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled such laws. The Arkansas General Assembly banned miscegenation in 1837, but the law was laxly enforced because of the small number of free blacks in the state. That law was overturned during Reconstruction, and many interracial couples married during the period.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Woman’s Chronicle Established

Jul 1, 2019

In March of 1888, Kate Cuningham launched the Woman’s Chronicle in downtown Little Rock. With associate editors Mary Brooks and Haryot Cahoon, page one of the first edition announced the paper’s deep dedication to Temperance, but in the same paragraph coyly asked, “Is suffrage essential to happiness? Who can decide? Who indeed – save time?”

After the passing of Lizzie Fyler, there appears to have been a three-year lull in suffrage activity in Arkansas. It was not until February of 1888 that Little Rock resident, Clara McDiarmid founded the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association. In her announcement in the national Woman’s Journal, McDiarmid described their activities. “We are distributing leaflets,” she wrote, and “have a committee on program[e] and are to have two papers at each monthly meeting. Innumerable obstacles to overcome, but ‘onward’ is the catchword.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Women’s Rights In Magnolia

Jul 1, 2019

Although the struggle for the right to vote began in Eureka Springs and would be centered in Little Rock, women throughout Arkansas were agitating for suffrage. Unfortunately, documentation of these activities is scarce. We know that women in Magnolia were active because of this brief note in a February 1882 issue of the Arkansas Gazette. It reads, “We are sorry to hear that some of our ladies are advocating women’s rights, which has been a consuming cancer on the body politic of our country for many years. Can’t the curse be eradicated?”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Lizzie-Dorman-Fyler Obituary

Jul 1, 2019

The year 1885 saw a number of serious blows to the suffrage movement in Arkansas. That year, the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association established by Lizzie Dorman Fyler in 1881 had dissolved. Reporting in the November 21st issue of the national Woman’s Journal, Fyler laments the absence of an organized suffrage society and speculates that the state is not yet ready for it.

In March of 1884, Eureka Springs resident Lizzie Dorman Fyler became the first Arkansan to attend the annual National American Woman Suffrage Association convention. Fyler, one of the first female lawyers in the state, took the lectern on the fourth day of the convention and detailed the extensive legislation recently passed expanding the rights of women in Arkansas.

The “crowning glory,” Fyler believed, was the 1882 act giving Arkansas women the right to vote on the prohibition of alcohol.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Jun 24, 2019

The Arkansas branch of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in Little Rock in 1879 as part of the national drive supporting the prohibition of alcohol.

Because of the link between drunkenness and domestic violence, temperance was considered a women’s issue and was an obvious partner for the women’s suffrage movement. The Temperance Union had a national organizational network that suffragists could both emulate and draw on for support. At the same time, suffrage would give women the opportunity to vote for temperance legislation.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Arkansas Ladies' Journal

May 22, 2019

The voices of Arkansas women were amplified significantly with the establishment of The Arkansas Ladies’ Journal in June of 1884.

Founded and edited by Little Rock resident Mary Loughborough, the Journal featured an all-female writing staff of seven.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association

May 22, 2019

In September of 1881, Lizzie Dorman Fyler established the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association in Eureka Springs.

Fyler used her announcement of the formation of the Association in the national Woman’s Journal to address the women of Arkansas.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Hamburg Debates

May 22, 2019

In July of 1871, the Ashley County Times included nine closely-printed columns detailing the arguments of the latest meeting of the Hamburg Debating Society. The topic of the debate was whether or not women should have the right to vote.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Encyclopedia of Arkansas

The online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture is getting a redesign. The resource is part of the Central Arkansas Library System and launched in 2006. But on Wednesday a revised, more modern version of the website was unviled. It includes new features and works on mobile devices.

Reporter Jacqueline Froelich with Fayetteville station KUAF spoke with staff at the encyclopedia about its past and what’s ahead. You can hear her report above or visit the revised site here.

Marion Noble, born at Garner in White County in 1911, was one of three Arkansas men who served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

Noble’s father was a railroad worker known for treating black and white colleagues equally. After he lost his job, he opened a car repair business where young Marion worked as a mechanic.

Kessler vs. Strecker, a 1939 deportation case, reached the Supreme Court of the United States and continues to be cited in cases involving undocumented immigrants.

Hot Springs restaurant owner Joseph Strecker immigrated to the U.S. in 1912 and applied for citizenship in 1933. He was arrested for having donated sixty cents to a Communist presidential candidate the year before and ordered deported.

Born at Pearson in Cleburne County in 1880, Clay Fulks became a notable figure in the limited history of radical leftism in Arkansas.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Arkansas Gazette Report On Couzins' Lecture

Apr 15, 2019

On January 3, 1870, Phoebe Couzins delivered the first public lecture on women’s suffrage in Little Rock.

The majority of the Arkansas Gazette’s report on the lecture described Couzins’ physical attributes declaring her “decidedly handsome,” and detailing her dress, her jewelry, and even her hair style. The reporter lauded Couzins for delivering her talk from memory and noted, “Some of its sentences produced an unmistakable sensation.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Phoebe Couzins Lecture Announcement

Apr 15, 2019

On January 1, 1870, the front page of the Arkansas Gazette included an invitation to Miss Phoebe Couzins to deliver a lecture to the citizens of Little Rock.

Interestingly, the invitation was signed by twenty-five men claiming “a deep interest in every movement calculated to improve and elevate the human family.”

Miss Couzins acceptance was also included in the notice and stated her belief that “the enfranchisement of women is to be the next question before the country, and that with it a very important step toward the elevation of the human family will be accomplished.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Fifteenth Amendment

Apr 15, 2019

In March of 1869, Arkansas became the tenth state to ratify the fifteenth amendment which declared that the right to vote shall not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

While these few words, in theory if not in practice, enfranchised African Americans, including former slaves, it also appeared to implicitly allow states to deny enfranchisement based on sex.

Arkansas was once home to one of the largest manufacturers of church furniture in the world. Claude H. Turney opened Turney Wood Products in his Harrison garage in 1946, building furniture for the nearby First Church of the Nazarene.

Using red and white oak harvested in the Ozark Mountains, Turney Wood Products built furniture that was going into one thousand churches annually by the mid-1960s when the firm boasted of being “the largest exclusive church furniture manufacturer in the western hemisphere.”

With her 1977 ordination at Little Rock’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Dr. Peggy Sue Bosmyer became the first female Episcopal priest south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Born in Helena on July 26th, 1948, Bosmyer had served as a deacon in Pine Bluff and an intern curate in Little Rock prior to her ordination. While some said women priests would “tear apart the Church” and one Episcopal leader stated that “we’ve never had a woman priest back to year one,” Arkansas Bishop Christoph Keller Jr. said Bosmyer’s priesthood emphasized “not the maleness but the humanity of Jesus Christ.”

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