Daisy Bates, Hattie Caraway, Louise McPhetridge Thaden, and Rosetta Tharpe
POCAHONTAS, AR Mar. 15–During Women’s History Month, BRTC would like to recognize some important women in Arkansas History.
Daisy Bates was born in Huttig, Arkansas in 1914 and raised in a foster home. She and her husband settled in Little Rock, Arkansas and started their own newspaper, The Arkansas Weekly. It was one of the only African American newspapers solely dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement, and Bates not only worked as an editor, but also regularly contributed articles.
Bates also worked with local Civil Rights organizations. For many years, she served as the President of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her work with the NAACP not only transformed the Civil Rights Movement but it also made Bates a household name.
Norwood, Arlisha. “Daisy Bates.” National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2017. 2 March 2022.
Hattie Caraway, along with her future husband, Thaddeus Caraway, taught school for several years in rural Arkansas. Her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate in the 1920s, and after he passed away while in office, Hattie was appointed to fill his position. She served 14 years in the U.S. Senate and established a number of “firsts,” including her 1932 feat of winning election to the upper chamber of Congress in her own right.
Caraway was still a part of the capital city in her post-congressional years. Franklin Roosevelt nominated her in early 1945 as a member of the Federal Employees’ Compensation Commission, where she served for a year. In 1946 President Harry S. Truman elevated her to the commission’s appeals board, where she remained until her death on December 21, 1950, in Falls Church, Virginia.
History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “CARAWAY, Hattie Wyatt,” https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/C/CARAWAY,-Hattie-Wyatt-(C000138)/ 2 Mar. 2022.
Louise McPhetridge Thaden was born in Bentonville (Benton County), Arkansas on November 12, 1905. She was an aviation pioneer and holder of numerous flight records during the late 1920s and 1930s. At one point, she was the most famous female American aviator only after Amelia Earhart.
Thaden and co-pilot Blanche Noyes became the first woman to win the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race, on September 4, 1936. The two women set a new transcontinental record in the race from New York to Los Angeles. For her achievements in 1936, Thaden won aviation’s highest honor given to a female pilot, the Harmon Trophy, in April 1937. In 1951, the Bentonville airport was renamed Louise M. Thaden Field in her honor.
Seibert, Rob. “Louise McPheridge Thaden.” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 1 Dec. 2020.
Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County), Arkansas on March 20, 1915. As a youth, she could sing and keep on pitch and hold a melody. Her vocal qualities, however, paled beside her abilities on the guitar—she played individual tones, melodies, and riffs instead of just strumming chords. This talent was all the more remarkable because, at the time, few African-American women played guitar.
Tharpe became one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label (Decca), and an early crossover from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by numerous musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Arkansan Johnny Cash. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2013, the PBS series American Masters featured an episode on Tharpe, and she was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. Act 810 of 2017 designated Highway 17 from Cotton Plant to Brinkley (Monroe County) the Sister Rosetta Tharpe Memorial Highway. In 2018, Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category.
McNeil, William and Buckalew, Terry. “Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973)” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 13 Jan. 2019. https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/commonwealth-college-10/.