Bell, Ruth, Little Rock resident in her 80s, discusses upbringing and influences in a northern Illinois farming community, education at Northwestern University, marriage to an Arkansas native, relocation, and family life in the state. Description of more than 50 years of volunteerism with the Little Rock League of Women Voters includes early years of the organization, ERA lobbying, longtime monitoring of educational and environmental issues, and the Little Rock Planning Commission.
Chavarria, Lupita, [aka Maria Stancil], community volunteer based in Little Rock, Arkansas, describes early life and family background in Chihuahua [city and province], Mexico, work with an agricultural implement company, and marriage to an “Anglo,” which brought her to Arkansas. She discusses her work as publisher of Enlace Latino [Latin Liaison] in Little Rock, organization of monthly community health clinics in central Arkansas, an annual event with the Guatemalan consulate, inspiration through work with her mother in a Chihuahua soup kitchen [Jesuit influence], and community activities in Cloverdale Middle School. Chavarria also discusses her college education in Mexico, current graduate work in marketing and business administration, mission to women and youth, and a fiction-writing project about contemporary Latino family situations.
Devone, Bernadette, community organizer based in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, discusses her work with a statewide social justice group and her background on the East Coast, including mentorship by Virginia legislator Dr. Mary Christian and early experiences with New Jersey and Maryland projects. Describes work with southern Arkansas communities, the importance of economics, the process of being invited in, the challenge of getting people to see that things can change, and how community members can work together.
Dillard, Mary, Malvern, Arkansas–based consultant in her 60s discusses family and upbringing in the Malvern-Benton, Arkansas, area; education in Arkansas and Colorado and early marriage; career in nonprofits [due in part to lack of jobs for women in her first love, wildlife biology, in the 1960s], and volunteer work with Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, AARP, and other organizations. Description of political consulting work includes discussion of 2014 Saline County liquor campaign. Also discusses second marriage and activities with Sexual Assault Coalition Arkansas and with Arkansas Community Foundation. [Two-part interview]
Doyle, Lee Lee, retired reproductive physiologist, age 79, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, describes family and early life in a rural California town, influence of her paternal grandmother, her Catholic background, and her education at Dominican College, Stanford University, and Tulane. She tells of her shift from animal to human research with intrauterine devices and her work at UAMS, initially “bench research,” later administration and medical education. Personal history with volunteer commitments, including California summer camp and Planned Parenthood in the 1950s and ’60s. She tells of Arkansas commitments: Anytown [National Conference of Christians and Jews], continuing roles with Planned Parenthood regionally and nationally, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, UAMS Women’s Faculty Caucus, and Stonewall. Notes support of late husband for her activities.
Elston, Jo Evelyn, Little Rock, Arkansas, public schools administrator/counselor, age 75, describes family and early life in Chicago, Illinois, and Parkin, Arkansas, including experience of segregation in the region and schools, undergraduate and graduate education at University of Arkansas–Pine Bluff and University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. Discusses role of teachers as mentors in public schools, her volunteer work with Youth and Family Services, Friends of the Arts (University of Arkansas at Little Rock], Arkansas Symphony, importance of church [Catholic], and the need to develop/encourage family and community resources.
Freeman, June, arts advocate, age 85, describes family and early life in Newark, New Jersey, and college education, with a focus on psychology, at the University of Chicago. Discusses meeting husband, moving to his home state of Arkansas, and involvement with community organizations in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Talks about writing an arts column for the Pine Bluff newspaper, assisting with community health and arts centers, working at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, and later starting a lecture series on architecture and other activities.
Hampton, Sybil Jordan, retired foundation executive and active community volunteer based Little Rock, Arkansas, age 65, describes early life in Little Rock, influence of family members, church background, many mentors, experience integrating Central High School, and her education at Earlham College, University of Chicago, and Columbia University. Outlines career in educational administration and foundation work nationally and in Arkansas. Contrasts experiences as a black person and woman, discusses equity issues broadly, personally, and strategically related to her own intentional journey toward philanthropy. [Two-part interview]
Hawkins, Ruth, director of the Heritage Sites program at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro, describes early life in St. Louis County, Missouri, on her family’s farm. She discusses her education at Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, and later her doctorate at Ole Miss. Discusses 1969 marriage and early work in journalism and public relations in Virginia and her 1978 move to northeastern Arkansas through her husband’s farm interests. Describes early projects with ASU—affirmative action policy, public relations, human resources, special assistance to the president (Ray Thornton), and development—and how these led to historic projects. Outlines criteria for ASU involvement in historic sites in the Arkansas Delta. Also discusses interpretive issues and financial challenges of long-term support for historic sites. Credits mentors and family with support for her activities. Offers reflections concerning women in the workplace based on her experience.
Horn, Robyn, Little Rock, Arkansas–based artist and philanthropist in her 60s, describes family background in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the centrality of art, teenage music, and her education at Hendrix College. Identifies individuals influential in her career as a sculptor working in wood and stone. Describes self as a visual learner, family commitment to arts education through Windgate Foundation, art collecting activities with husband John Horn, and the relation of collection to her art-making. Notes that she does not feel that she has been discriminated against as a woman in the arts, and she wishes to be known for quality of work, not gender. Also discusses her values in creating and collecting art, her family commitment to disbursing foundation assets actively, thoughtfully. Relates the story of her courtship and marriage. Reflects on the expansion of women’s opportunities during her lifetime.
McFarlin, Shirley, a volunteer for the League of Women Voters for more than fifty years, now in her 80s and based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Discusses upbringing in northwest Arkansas and at the Rohwer internment camp, education at Little Rock Junior College, courtship and marriage to a mining engineer, and return to central Arkansas via Reynolds Aluminum. Describes work in the 1950s and ’60s in Pulaski County and state leagues on “clean” elections, poll tax, consensus process within the league, personal volunteerism for David Pryor’s campaigns for Senate and governorship in the 1970s, and subsequent staff work with Pryor. Describes league ERA campaign of the mid-1970s, changes in the league, women’s roles over time, and her family’s participation in Little Rock Unitarian Universalist Church. She returns to the subject of legislative lobbying for the league and the textbooks issue, others who followed her in the lobbying role, and local league chapters statewide, now in decline.
Schexnayder, Charlotte, retired newspaper editor and legislator, still active in Dumas, Arkansas, community affairs at age 88, describes family and early life in Desha County, Arkansas, including education at Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College and Louisiana State University. Discusses role models, marriage, early newspaper work at the McGehee Times and later the Dumas Clarion. Identifies mentors throughout career, discusses appointment to Arkansas Pardons and Parole Board , volunteer work with newspaper organizations, and experiences in the Arkansas legislature, 1985–1997, including increasing participation of/reception of women in public roles. Describes work in the civil rights era, balance between newspaper work/other public roles, and how she managed family responsibilities.
Sloan, Kitty, semi-retired journalist, community historian, and volunteer based in Paragould, Arkansas, describes family upbringing in a prosperous Jonesboro family, influence of community-minded parents, and education in parochial and public schools. Reflects on memories of integration in the middle and high schools, as well as the influence of the Vietnam War on her college education. Discusses experiences as an intern and reporter for the Paragould Daily Press, status of women in journalism in the mid-1970s, family/social expectations for women in her experience. She offers wide-ranging comments about her own life and her mother’s as a widow. Describes courtship with husband, including her decision to keep her last name upon marriage. Discusses participation in the Horizons project for the Arkansas Press Women (1970s). Outlines activities with the Trail of Tears Association and other historical organizations. Notes several elements of family history, including multi-generational Catholic/Protestant “mixed marriages,” current research into North Carolina roots, and her maternal Prescott, Arkansas, connection. Discusses care-giving for mother and other older relatives as an important experience. Outlines the origins and goals of funds established in honor of the Sloan parents at Arkansas State University and the Arkansas Community Foundation. Describes the effects of a childhood hearing loss, efforts to overcome.
Snow, Nan, retired journalist, civil servant, and feminist still active in community and historical affairs at age 78, describes family and early life moving around Oklahoma, Washington State, and later settlement in Harrison, Arkansas, surrounded by relatives. Discusses education at Arkansas State Teachers College, now University of Central Arkansas, in Conway and meeting husband there. Describes work experiences in Washington D.C. government offices, Arkansas-based journalism and public relations, involvement with federal and state policy and programs directed toward women’s training and leadership in Texas and Arkansas, and participation in the second wave of the women’s movement in the 1970s forward. Describes consulting partnership with Dorothy Stuck and the biography of Fayetteville editor-publisher Roberta Fulbright that the two co-authored.
Steuri, Grace, community volunteer based in Little Rock, Arkansas, age 74, discusses childhood and family in Kansas, early interest in the arts and fashion, and the origin of her charitable vintage clothing show “Fashionating History.” Describes meeting husband; their frequent moves for his work, including to Arkansas in 1989; and adopting their son David.
Tompkins, Ethel, semi-retired librarian and community historian based in Hoxie/Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, describes early years on a sharecropping farm in Jackson County, her father’s switch to railroad work in Hoxie, later experiences as a member of the peaceful Hoxie 21 school integration event in Lawrence County in 1955, and adult participation in commemoration of Hoxie integration. Discusses initial college education at Shorter College in Little Rock, subsequent U.S. Navy experience, completion of education on the GI Bill, and longtime work in the computer science area, mostly on the West Coast. Discusses family influences and faith, with perspectives on women in military and technical life throughout. Reflects on the work life and practical issues of returning to a small community after more cosmopolitan experiences in the U.S. and elsewhere. Describes activities with the Lawrence County Historical Society, also the African American Gravestone Project.
West-Scantlebury, Sherece, foundation executive, discusses work for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Arkansas, such as real-life manifestations of public policy issues such as structural racism and disinvestment, as well as examples of pilot programs in Jonesboro, Blytheville, Augusta, and elsewhere in Arkansas. Identifies shifts and limitations of philanthropy as a profession and discusses her own commitments to the field. Describes personal experiences growing up and how that influenced ideas about marriage and family. [Note: an earlier interview in the FPP series provides additional information about her youth in New York and Maryland, education, and early career prior to Arkansas work.]
Willet, Sister Elaine, Olivetan Benedictine Sister from Holy Angels Covent in Jonesboro, discusses growing up on a family farm in northeastern Arkansas and the call to religious life. She describes the education received through the order and her initial career posts teaching and nursing in Arkansas and Louisiana, which included medical and social situations, such as integration of wards due to natural disasters (then retaining those practices in the interest of hospital efficiency and patient well-being). Willet also recalls experiences later in her career as a missionary in Mexico, as a minister to migrants in northern Arkansas, and as a teacher of Spanish to hospital staff at St. Bernards, Jonesboro. [Two-part interview]
Youngdahl, Pat, retired psychologist and social activist discusses her years in higher education, development of family, and her professional and civic work. Describes how her childhood in Missouri and then her higher education shaped her views of social issues and the progression of her involvement in leadership positions in politics and advocacy organizations for women and children, including the Child Study Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Women’s Political Caucus, Governor’s Commission on Alternative Education, and WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions). Discusses participation in the Democratic Party of Arkansas, campaigning for the Clintons, and changes noticed in politics—both good and bad.