Presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton, civil rights leader Daisy Bates, and the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, Hattie Caraway, are among 11 inductees in the first class of the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame. One organization, the Central High School desegregation-era Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, also received the honor.
Board president Nan Snow announced the inductees, both historical and contemporary, on Monday on the steps of the state Capitol. The organization released a brief description of each of the inaugural inductees. Nominees have to be born in Arkansas, achieved prominence in the state, or resided in the state for “an extended period.”
Betty Bumpers – a former Arkansas first lady who led a statewide immunization program for childhood vaccinations
Hillary Rodham Clinton – a former Arkansas first lady, first lady of the United States, U.S. senator from New York, and U.S. Secretary of State
Dr. Mary Good – founding dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and former under secretary for technology for the Technology Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce
Johnelle Hunt – co-founder of publicly traded J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell, one of the largest transportation and logistics providers
Dr. Edith Irby Jones – medical doctor, educator, philanthropist who was the first African America to attend and graduate from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Mary Ann Ritter Arnold – the first woman mayor of Marked Tree and the former president of agribusiness and communications firm E. Ritter & Co.
Alice Walton – founder and board chairman of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville
Daisy Bates – civil rights activist, writer and publisher who played a leading role in the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock
Hattie Caraway – the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate
Hester Davis – a leader in the development of cultural resources management legislation and programs who blazed a trail for women in archeology
Roberta Fulbright – a prominent Fayetteville business leader and former publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times who championed the University of Arkansas, fought corruption and advocated for women’s equality
Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) – a Civil Rights-era committee formed in Little Rock in response to Gov. Orval Faubus’s efforts to close the city’s four public high schools
After remarks on the Capitol steps, Snow said narrowing the selection down from 70-plus entries was difficult but not as hard as the U.S. Treasury Department’s new task of placing a woman on the $10 bill, “I certainly support it, but that’s an even tougher choice don’t you think?”
Arkansas’s First Lady Susan Hutchinson was on hand as well. She said a new denomination might be better than replacing Alexander Hamilton and that former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is one of her favorites for a woman to grace U.S. currency. The Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce is planning to push for Caraway, the nation's first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932, as part of a national discussion.
Governor Asa Hutchinson drew applause from his wife during remarks alluding to behind the scenes power.
“What’s unique about women leadership is that they feel very comfortable leading either from the front or behind. They will lead either way. They have a way of figuring out and exercising extraordinary leadership,” the governor said.
The Republican governor said the recognition is needed.
“It certainly is long overdue that we recognize the extraordinary history of women in Arkansas’s history, its leadership, and its problem solving.” Hutchinson noted the importance of contributions from women is not unique to the present, “our entire history of Arkansas is filled with extraordinary women who have provided leadership.”
The governor, like Snow and other hall of fame board members, said the value of the retrospective honor is forward looking.
“It will be an example of history, of women in leadership. But hopefully it will be visionary as well, as to the role that women play in the future of this state,” said Hutchinson after referring to his daughter and granddaughter.
The hall is a partnership between the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Business Publishing Group. Board president Nan Snow says exhibits will travel the state with hopes of a permanent home in three years. North Little Rock houses another place of recognition, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Inductees will be honored at a ceremony at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock on August 27.