Arkansas History

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Early Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association

Oct 21, 2019

When Clara McDiarmid established the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association in Little Rock in 1888, the organization was small but young and energetic.

Miss Ida Joe Brooks, then a professor of Mathematics at Little Rock University, described those early days of the movement in Arkansas.

“There were thirteen of us” in the original association, three of whom were under the age of twenty-one. Five women were not even residents of the city. It was not a formidable party,” Brooks commented.

“We are few in numbers, weak in influence, poor in purse, but valiant in spirit.”

On January 31st, 1897, the Arkansas Gazette reported on a “horrible monster” terrorizing Searcy County.

Called the gowrow based on its horrifying roar, the beast had been slaughtering cattle until a posse tracked it to its cave, littered with human and animal remains, and killed the beast with several volleys of rifle fire, but not before the twenty-foot long, fearsomely tusked gowrow ripped the leg from a posse member.

Woodruff County’s Anita Blackmon wrote more than one thousand short stories and several novels, including mysteries in the “had I but known” school.

Born in Augusta in 1892, Blackmon published her first short stories in 1922 under her married name, Mrs. Harry Pugh Smith, but she would publish her novels using her maiden name. Blackmon’s work was published in Love Story Magazine, Cupid’s Diary and Detective Tales, as well as in serialized versions in the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.

A fake documentary shot for one hundred sixty thousand dollars in 1972 would gross more than twenty million and bring fame to a small south Arkansas town.

Little Rock Nine Central High
U.S. Army / Wikipedia

A weekend commemoration marked the turbulent integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. The event, held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was called “Retracing the Footsteps of History Makers,” with members of the Little Rock Nine talking about what is was like attending the school.

Mosaic Templars Exhibit To Feature Racist Memorabilia

Sep 18, 2019
Christina Shutt, executive director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, with some of the artifacts featured in the "Hateful Things" exhibit.
Kelly Connelly / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock will open its newest exhibit, "Hateful Things," on Thursday. It features what is considered to be racist memorabilia that has been collected by Dr. David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. He has spent a lifetime researching, collecting, and understanding racist objects.

Standing inside the exhibit space, MTCC Executive Director Christina Shutt said viewing these items collectively makes a powerful statement. 

Deborah Baldwin
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust has pledged $2.25 million to the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture. The funds will be managed by the University of Arkansas Foundation.

During a news conference on Tuesday, University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt announced that the gift is to support the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection and its other activities and collections in an effort to perpetuate continual support.

Flood control efforts in northeast Arkansas’s Sunken Lands yielded an engineering marvel: The Marked Tree Siphons.

Drainage District Number Seven in Poinsett County was formed in 1917 to help regulate flooding of the Saint Francis River. The Steep Gut Floodway, lock and sluiceway were completed in 1926, but seven years later forty feet of the sluiceway dropped and part of the levee collapsed when the fine sand at its base washed away.

At seven thousand acres, Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge offers a resting place for migratory birds as well as a permanent home for hundreds of species.

The area housing Holla Bend was created in 1954 when an Arkansas River flood control project straightened a section of the river and created an island between the old and new channels. It was turned over to the Department of the Interior three years later to serve as a wildlife refuge.

A pair of colleges in Arkadelphia have maintained a rivalry since 1895 with an annual football game dubbed “The Battle of the Ravine.”

Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State University are located across Highway 67 from each other, making their annual meeting the only game in the country where the visiting team walks across the street for the competition. Some of the scores have been one-sided, with Ouachita winning 66 to zero in 1919 and Henderson taking the 1932 game 62 to nothing.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Susan B. Anthony Speaks In Little Rock

Sep 1, 2019

On Thursday, February 21, 1889, national suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony spoke at the Capital Theater in Little Rock. The following day, the Arkansas Gazette reported on the event.

Electing not to include or describe any of Anthony’s remarks, the writer claimed that “No very large percent of the women of America embrace Miss Anthony’s radical view [and]…It is a truth that suffrage is a boon not desired by a very heavy majority of the most refined and intelligent women of the country.

Susan B. Anthony is, perhaps, the most famous name in the American women’s suffrage movement, and with good reason. Born into a family of reformers, Anthony was active in the temperance movement and she was also an ardent and tireless abolitionist. But she was most passionate about gaining for women the right to vote.

Early in February of 1889, the Woman’s Chronicle began advertising the upcoming visit to Little Rock by Susan B. Anthony. The newspaper billed the event as “Miss Anthony’s First Visit South.” After her lecture on “What Woman Wants,” the Chronicle reported that “Miss Anthony proved very conclusively…that what women needed was the ballot."

The 1883 Eclectic Society’s debate on women and the right to vote reveals several prominent pro-suffrage Arkansas men. S.F. Clark, a Railroad director, said the notion that “the right to vote would unsex a woman was absurd,” calling the argument “weak, shallow – and mere poppycock.”

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.

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