Women's Role in Missouri History, 1821-1971

from the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1971-72
James Kirkpatrick, Secretary of State

Ladies of the Press
Status of Women
And Many, Many More


Ladies of the Press

Newspaperwomen, past and present, could fill a volume:  Bertha Bless, Weston, an early president of the National Federation of Press Women; publishers like Lois Lauer Wolfe of Blue Springs, Dorothy O. Moore of St. Clair, the late Margaret Vickery, of Salem. Specialists in Ozarkian lore like May Kennedy McCord of Springfield and Mary Mahnkey of Forsyth.

There are writers whose bylines and headlines appear in the metropolitan press:   Nannie Mitchell Turner, Adele Starbird, Mary Kimbrough, Olivia Skinner, Dorothy Gardner, Dorothy Brainerd, Marian O'Brien, Beulah Schacht Skinner, Sue Ann Wood, and the retired ones whose names are still remembered - Katharine Darst, Virginia Irwin.

In Independence, is Sue Gentry, who wrote her V-J Day story on the typewriter of an old friend, Harry Truman, whose office she was visiting in Washington when the news came through.  Now a book shop proprietor in the Shepherd of the Hills country is a veteran newspaperwoman, Jewell Ross Mehus. In Columbia are presswomen Maude Freeland, Vivian Hansbrough, Queen Smith and Betty Cook Rottmann.

Where to start and where to stop when one names the women of fame and accomplishment in the state of Missouri? Perhaps one move in the right direction is the attempt to recognize women, not as women but as individuals.  In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed a national Commission on the Status of Women.

The Status of Women

Out of its recommendations came Commissions on the Status of Women in all 50 states.  Missouri's was one of the first.  It was headed by Dr. Blanche Dow, and Dr. Sara Feder.  Other members were:  Miss Jane Clark, Mrs. Milton Epstein, Mrs. George Gellhorn, Miss Mary Lichliter, Mrs. Donald Niederlander, Mrs. Robert Rosenthal, Mrs. T. M. Sayman, Mrs. James A Scott, Mrs. J. W. Sonnenday, Mrs. Buena Stolberg, Mrs. Kay Williams and Miss Susan Dolan, all of the St. Louis area; Miss Floss K. Bucklew, Laura Gelzer, Mary Joan McCann and Erma Young, Kansas City; Irma Canada, Jefferson City; Sallie Hailey, Arrow Rock; Mrs. John R. Schroder, Hannibal; Mrs. Hugh Miner and Mrs. Warren Welsh, both of St. Joseph; and Mrs. Mabel Swindel, Doniphan.

Also members of the first Commission were five women who have served on all succeeding Commissions.  They are:  Miss Alberta J. Meyer, Jefferson City, who is the present chairman; Mrs. Anita Leigh, Ballwin, Mrs. Clarissa Start Davidson, High Ridge; Mrs. Pearl Matthews, Canton, and Mrs. Hal McHaney, Kennett.

Members currently on the fourth, now statutory commission also include:  Mrs. Harriette Yeckel, Mrs. Sue Shear, Mrs. Ruth Boulicault, Mrs. Marjorie Garansson, Mrs.. Lorene Maris, Mrs. Betty McCaskill, Mrs. Betty Mitchell, Mrs. Margaret Rone, Miss Clara Surber and Miss Wilma Sutton.

Additional members of earlier commissions include:  Miss N. Francille Bailey, Mrs. Mary Dees, Mrs. William C. Hopkins, Miss Norma Roesch and Mrs. Josephine Roush.

Another select group of women are those who have been appointed to the Academy of Squires.  They are:  Miss Adah Peckenpaugh, Clinton; Dr. Ruth Seevers, Osceola; Mrs. Raymond A. Young, Columbia; Mrs. G. Baird Fischer, Osgood; Mrs. Holton R. Price Jr., Ladue; and Sister Jacqueline Grennan, now Mrs. Paul Wexler, formerly of Webster Groves.

The First Ladies of Missouri have played a starring role and often occupied the spotlight singly.  The Manse's present occupant, Betty Cooper Hearnes has been outstanding for her interest in art and music, for her own vocal abilities and for her considerable accomplishment in the renovation of the manse itself.

And Many Many More

One is painfully aware that any list of women who have played a part in a 150-year history will be remiss in some respects.  Some of the most obvious names many be omitted.  Others defy categorization. Where to put Ella Ewing, gentle giantess of the St. Louis World's Fair?

Mrs. James Dodge - Ruth Dunham Dodge - who was honored by her hometown, Fulton as a Kingdom of Callaway citizen in 1971, faced this same problem as she wrote the history of William Woods College.  She concluded it with a poem by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet, appropriately titled, "Apology."  It goes:

We couldn't put in all the great
Or Even all the small
And many names with sterling claims
We haven't used at all.

But here's a rather varied lot
As anyone can see
and all and each by deed and speech
Adorned out history.

Some got the medals and the plums
Some got their fingers burnt
But every one's a native son
Except for those who weren't.

So praise and blame judiciously
Their foibles and their worth.
The skies they knew were our skies too,
The earth they found, our earth.

Native son, in our case is "native daughter"...except for those who weren't.

There were - there are - many whose names do not appear here.  And beyond doubt, the greatest achievements of women in the history of Missouri have yet to be written - by the women of the next generation.


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