By BARBARA LEWIS
Women’s History Month was officially created by Congress in 1987 — but its roots go much deeper. As a genealogy society, we are always interested in roots. These roots started with trying to get women the right to vote in the early 20th century. Many suffragists met in Manhattan, Feb. 28, 1909. It was held on Sunday, so they would not miss work. The next year all 17 countries at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen agreed to recognize it as an International holiday. It was not celebrated in America until the United Nations recognized it in 1975.
In order to persuade schools to comply with Title IX laws passed in 1972 to prohibit sex-based discrimination in any school or education program receiving funds from the federal government, California did a week-long celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society. In 1980, President Carter issued a proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. By 1987, Congress declared the entire month of March as National Women’s History Month.
LeFlore County has had many notable women to make a difference in the structure of the county from years past to present. The following are just a few:
Pansy Ingle was born in 1890 in Paris, Arkansas. In 1912 she moved to Poteau. With a Masters’ Degree in English and Library Science from Indiana University, she became a third-grade teacher. In 1915 she married Frank Kidd. Since a regulation of the 1915 school board was not to hire married female teachers, she had to quit teaching. Pansy did not teach again until 1921 when the regulation was finally changed. For 40 years she taught with all her heart, and was called by many, “Dean of Poteau’s Teachers.” Mrs. Kidd taught whatever her superintendent needed her to teach. During her tenure she was a teacher of Science, Math, and English, Librarian, Counselor, and Principal. She organized the beginning of the Junior High School. Pansy Kidd taught for 42 years and retired in 1960. She lived in Poteau until her death in 1978. Pansy Kidd Middle School was named in her honor.
Nora Harrison was born in 1896 at Waldron. At the age of 16 she became the second wife to 37-year-old Daniel Alexander Shaw. Daniel was born near Waldron and at that time was a Methodist Minister at Wilburton with six young children to raise as his wife had recently died. After Daniel and Nora married, they moved to Poteau, and he was editor of the Poteau newspaper from 1914 to 1919. In 1916, he was elected County Judge. Shortly after he was elected mayor of Poteau and in 1926, he was elected State Senator. He died Jan. 2, 1927; the day he was to be sworn in as Senator. Nora and two opponents filed for the remaining term of Mayor. Nora was elected and served out the remaining term and in 1927, she was elected as Poteau’s first woman Mayor and the first Mayor elected for a town in Oklahoma. By 1935 Nora moved to Oklahoma City and worked at the State Capitol. She died at age 95 in Palm Springs, California.
Ramona Reed was born in 1930 in Talihina to Ben and Marie Reed. She auditioned at Nashville singing and yodeling and was given a spot on the Grand Old Opry. She shared a dressing room with Minnie Pearl as they were often the only females there. Ramona sang with Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys and then toured with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys for three years. After her marriage to Lt. Jim Blair, a decorated Korean War vet she semi-retired to their home in Clayton. She would always work with Bob Wills and the playboys if they were in the area, and that included performing at Taylor’s Inn.
Tabitha Hickman Heavener Ward- A Choctaw that moved their store from Skullyville to what later became Heavener. Heavener was named for her and her husband Joseph Heavener.
DeGrace Thomas – A Choctaw born in Talihina became schoolteacher and in 1921 was the first woman to ever be elected in LeFlore County when she was made Supt. of Public Instruction.
Lois White Burton -Teacher at Shady Point for many years, later served as Choctaw Tribal Council Woman and Tribal Judge. She served on the Choctaw Nation’s Hospital Governing Board and the Jones Academy Board of Education. Presently the Pharmacy Refill Center at the Choctaw Clinic in Poteau bears her name.
Gloria Farley – investigator, researcher and author of information regarding the Heavener Runestone and contributed to its protection within a state park.
Females from LeFlore county serving in WWII include:
Gillie Pauline Pitcock Tanksley, schoolteacher, served from Bokoshe in WAAC and WAC as TEC 4 during WWII earning many medals including a bronze star.
Margie Rosalee Shelton of Shady Point served in US Army during WWII. She served 21 months discharging as Private First Class.
Frances Earle Myatt, daughter of Earl and Vera Plumlee Myatt from Poteau served in the Air Force as a Staff Sergeant. She served 35 months and was later a member of the Disabled American Veterans.
Goodwyn Page Johnson of Spiro served as army nurse from July 1942 until Apr 1945. She is buried at Ft. Smith National Cemetery.
Pauline Sturgis Cotner was from Monroe but also lived in Poteau. She attended college at Durant and taught elementary school prior to military service with W.A.C. Detachment 1883 in El Paso, Texas. She was Honorable Discharged November 18, 1945, from the U.S. Army as TEC 5. Pauline served as an x-ray technician and received the American Theatre Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Ribbon.
Virginia Peden, daughter of Goen and Florence Akin Peden of Heavener, enlisted Jan 1, 1943, and served three years in the Navy Waves. She married Dan Abrams Aug 23, 1945, in Honolulu. She discharged as an Aviation Machinists Mate Third Class.
To research these women and many other notable LeFlore County women stop by our genealogy library on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10-4.
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