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City of Little Rock Public Relations
Office (501) 371-4421
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE :
Friday, September 12, 2008
Events Planned in Little Rock Commemorating 50th Anniversary of the Women’s Emergency Committee To Open Our Schools
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- The group of women that met secretly in 1958 to plot strategies to get Little Rock public high schools re-opened during the school desegregation crisis will be remembered September 13, 14 and 16 with a series of events, saluting the 50th anniversary of The Women’s Emergency Committee. This Committee, with over 1,200 members, was a strong advocate for public schools from 1958 until 1963.
All anniversary activities will be at the Terry House in the Quapaw Quarter neighborhood of Little Rock, the mansion that was the residence of the late Adolphine Fletcher Terry, one of WEC’s co-founders. Among the activities planned is a reunion of the Women’s Emergency Committee (WEC), a symposium on women as change agents and an open house and tours of the Terry House.
Cindy Pugh and Laura Miller are co-chairs of the 50th anniversary task force, made up of a small group of Little Rock women who are volunteering their time, believing that the WEC deserves special recognition. Pugh is a Little Rock civic leader and Miller is the historian for the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.
“We are celebrating not only their passion for public education, but their courage to lead at a time when women’s roles were much more subordinate. Their actions helped re-open our high schools and inspired other women to take leadership roles. To this day, we are in awe of their work. They proved fifty years ago that a woman’s place is not necessarily confined to the home,” Pugh said.
The Committee’s role has been featured in a documentary written, produced and directed by Sandra Hubbard, who was a student at Hall High School in 1958 when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus closed the city’s four high schools, rather than integrate them.
“It was a sad, sad situation. We were without a high school to attend. Today I look back and wonder how such a thing could have happened,” Hubbard, now of Fayetteville, said.
Adolphine Fletcher Terry was 76 when she helped form the committee. Joining her as co-founders were Vivion Brewer, in her 50s at the time, and Velma Powell, the youngest of the three at age 37. Terry was a 1902 graduate of Vassar College where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement. She was named one of Vassar’s 100 distinguished graduates at the college’s centennial ceremonies in 1961. Her father had served as Little Rock Mayor. Brewer was a Smith College graduate and her father had also been Mayor. Powell and her husband, a vice principal at Central High School, had both been active in civil rights.
Terry died in 1976. One of her five children lives in Little Rock, Mr. William L. (Bill) Terry who is Of Counsel with the Friday Eldredge and Clark law firm. Mr. and Mrs. Terry have three daughters living in Little Rock, Beth Foti, Ellen Terry, and Susan Borné.
The commemoration kicks off Saturday, Sept. 13 with a symposium entitled, “From Pedestal to Pillar to Power: Women as Forces for Change.” Reservations are required to attend. The symposium will bring together women leaders from a diverse organizational base across Arkansas to explore the current role of women as change makers in their communities. Attendees will re-visit the legacy of Adolphine Fletcher Terry and hear from special guests and a variety of women leaders who are agents of change in their respective fields. The symposium will close with a session exploring future use of the Terry House in conjunction with a woman’s initiative.
Keynoting the symposium will be Lorraine Gates Schuyler, Chief of Staff in the President’s Office of the University of Richmond. Schuyler has written an essay on the WEC, which was published in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly. She is the author of a newly-published book, “The Weight of Their Votes: Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s.” Schuyler grew up in Little Rock and graduated first in her class from Little Rock Central High School in 1989. Her grandmother Dr. Mary Jane Gates and her parents Allan and Karen Gates were friends of the late Mrs. Terry.
Also confirmed for the symposium are representatives of “Women of the Storm.” Founded in January 2006, this organization offers a contemporary example of women responding to a severe community crisis by mobilizing to heighten political awareness and enact community-wide change. “Women of the Storm” is a non-partisan non-political alliance of Louisiana women whose families, businesses and lives were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita. Their mission is to educate the elected officials and others about the urgent needs of the areas affected by the hurricanes for safe and secure neighborhoods and communities. The group offers educational tours, data and personal stories about families whose lives have been forever altered by the 2005 hurricane season.
Several women will participate in a panel discussion about the role of women as forces for change in Little Rock. The session will be moderated by Ruth Shepherd and panelists include Minnijean Brown Trickey, Olivia Farrell, Senator-elect Joyce Elliott, Pat Lile, Nancy Rousseau, and Janet Perkins.
On Sunday, Sept. 14, an open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Tours of the Terry House will be provided and several exhibits will be on display. They include Women of the Central High Crisis: The Politics of Gender and Desegregation, which describes the roles of women, including Daisy Bates, the six female African-American students who were part of the Little Rock Nine; the WEC, the Mother’s League of Central High and teachers. Also on hand will be a multi-media presentation entitled A Gathering of Women: Arkansas Women 1930-2000 that chronicles the many and varied milestones achieved by women from all walks of life in Arkansas.
Hubbard’s documentary, The Giants Wore White Gloves, will be shown continuously at all events. Copies of it will be available for purchase.
The celebration ends with a Tuesday, Sept. 16 public reception and reunion of the WEC and their families. The reception is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with a brief program scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Public officials participating in the program include Governor Mike Beebe and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. There will be remarks by former WEC member Margaret Kolb and tribute remarks by Angela Daliet, founder and executive director of Save Our Schools—New Orleans (SOS NOLA). In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Angela organized her widely scattered school community and successfully pushed the district to reestablish her children’s public school. These early efforts to reopen schools evolved into the work of SOS NOLA, which continues its advocacy for quality access to public education in New Orleans by engaging parents and community members in local public education policy and practice.
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