Arkansas History

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.”

Actor-comedian turned evangelist Joe Jeffers brought turmoil to Jonesboro’s Baptist community, leading to brawls, gunfights and a fatal shooting.

Johnny Cash Daisy Bates
Library of Congress/ National Park Service

A proposal to replace Arkansas’s two statues in the U.S. Capitol with singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates has advanced to the state House of Representatives for what could be a final vote. The bill was passed in the Arkansas Senate last month with no one voting against it.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Rights Of Woman Lecture

Mar 4, 2019

On September 28, 1869, the Arkansas Gazette published a notice from one Miss Louise F. Vickers inviting Little Rock citizens to hear her lecture on “The Rights of Woman.”

While Vickers avoids inflammatory suffrage language in her advertisement, she does say “the subject is justly creating much comment throughout the United States and will continue to exercise the minds of just men and thinking women until woman is admitted to her proper sphere in the orbit of society now unjustly withheld from her.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: 1869 Arkansas Gazette Editorial

Mar 4, 2019

Even before Arkansas women began formally organizing women’s suffrage campaigns, the February 25, 1869 edition of the Arkansas Gazette ran an editorial lampooning the very notion.

It begins, “And are they serious in this movement in favor of woman’s rights?” and asks “Don’t [women] wield already the most absolute despotism on earth? .... are not all men slaves to their caprices?”

The only right of women the writer is willing to endorse is the “right to dress, to look as pretty as they please.”

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Letter To Susan B. Anthony

Mar 4, 2019

After attempting and failing to include women’s right to vote in the 1868 Arkansas Constitution, Arkadelphian Miles Ledford Langley wrote a letter to Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the national suffrage movement.

He told her that not only had the convention failed “to guarantee to woman her God-given and well-earned rights of civil and political equality,” his motion, he said, was met with “ridicule, sarcasm, and insult.”

A victim of the Trail of Tears, remembered as “a noble-hearted woman,” is buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery. Elizabeth “Quatie” Ross was born in seventeen ninety-one in the old Cherokee Nation, now part of Georgia.

She married Cherokee chief John Ross in 1813 and after a tribal faction signed the Treaty of New Echota, ceding their rights to their ancestral lands in the southeastern U.S., she and their children accompanied him on the passage to the Indian Territory.

Mary John was born a slave in the late seventeen-eighties in Louisiana but would lead a remarkable life in Arkansas.

She was sold in 1811 to James Scull, an American settler at Arkansas Post. Though she was his slave for nearly thirty years, Mary also was able to work on her own and on September 13th, 1840, she purchased her freedom from Scull for eight hundred dollars. She parlayed her reputation as an excellent cook into a business, opening a renowned hotel and tavern at Arkansas Post.

Freda Hogan Ameringer was born on November 17th, 1892, at Huntington in Sebastian County. The daughter of a founder of the state’s Socialist party, she was a dedicated socialist by her early teens.

Clinton Presidential Center Library
Wikimedia Commons

The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock is celebrating Presidents Day with free admission on Monday. The only other day during the year that it offers free admission is in August to celebrate former President Bill Clinton’s birthday.

All temporary and permanent exhibits are open, including the recently unveiled "Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth."

Spokeswoman Rebecca Tennille says the exhibit is a great opportunity to see what the presidential library has to offer.

Many may be surprised to learn that the first recorded demand for women’s suffrage in Arkansas was made in 1868.

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds: The Declaration Of Sentiments

Feb 5, 2019

Originally, the U.S. Constitution did not specifically deny women the right to vote; instead it deferred to individual state suffrage laws, allowing each state to determine who could and could not vote. Many states, including Arkansas, defined eligible voters as “male.”

In July 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony issued the Declaration of Sentiments, calling for equal rights for women. It declared, “That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.”

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds: Arkansas's 19th Amendment Ratification

Feb 5, 2019

On July 28th, 1919, Arkansas became the twelfth state to ratify the nineteenth amendment, giving American women the right to vote.

Suffrage in Sixty Seconds will celebrate the centennial of Arkansas’s ratification and recount the long journey to women’s suffrage and the state’s role in that journey. We will travel from Seneca Falls, New York to Little Rock, and finally to Washington DC. We will commemorate the lives of the courageous and determined people, both men and women, in Arkansas and beyond, whose tirelessly work gave women a political voice.

With a sound that merged rock stylings with gospel songs, Little Rock’s Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters challenged traditional gospel music during the 1960s and ‘70s.

McFadden and the Loving Sisters – Jo Dumas, Ann James and Lorraine Leeks – played before a full band, unlike the stripped-down sounds of most gospel. After a 1964 Chicago performance, a listener wrote a local newspaper: “I was so ashamed of the entire program. I never expected to hear rock and roll at a religious service.”

E. Lynn Harris was born in 1955 in Flint, Michigan, but moved to Little Rock at age three. A frequent library visitor, he fell in love with the writings of James Baldwin and Maya Angelou.

He attended the University of Arkansas, where he was the school’s first black cheerleader and yearbook editor, graduating with honors.

Harris kept his sexual identity secret, which led to depression and a suicide attempt. He found writing therapeutic, and in 1991 self-published his first book, Invisible Life, which led to a three-book deal with Doubleday.

Few Little Rock personalities of the late 1980s attracted more attention than Elton and Betty White.

Betty, born Betty Crandall in Mabelvale in 1927, and Elton, an NBA prospect born in Dumas in 1958, met in 1984 at Little Rock’s Union Rescue Mission and, Betty said, “it was love at first sight.”

Maxine Brown Russell
County Music Hall of Fame

Maxine Brown Russell, a country music singer and songwriter who performed as part of a trio with her siblings Jim Ed Brown and Bonnie Brown, died Monday in hospice care in Little Rock. She was 87.

The Browns had several hits in the 1950s and ‘60s, including "The Three Bells" which topped Billboard’s country and Hot 100 pop charts for weeks and sold more than a million copies. The group was also nominated for a Grammy. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

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