Women in Reform

Frances Estill Beauchamp (Madison, 1857-1923)
Beauchamp was an active member of the Lexington Women’s Christian Temperance Union and was its president in 1895. She chaired the state Prohibition party for ten years and served as the secretary of the Prohibition National Committee from 1912 until her death.

Malinda Gatewood Bibb (Trimble, c. 1815-n. d.)
Few slaves left records that can tell us about their lives. Bibb was a slave who escaped with her family several times, but was finally caught, separated from her husband and sold “down river,” never to be heard from again.

Sallie Bingham (Jefferson, b. 1937)
Bingham gave $10 million dollars in 1985 to establish the Kentucky Foundation for Women in Louisville as an investment in women’s artistic and creative projects. She is a writer of books, short stories, and plays who incorporates her Kentucky heritage into her writing.

Anne Braden (Jefferson, b. 1924)
Braden has devoted her life to the search for peace and racial and economic justice. As one of the few role models for white women who wanted to join the civil rights movement, she has won countless awards for her work. Learn more about Anne Braden.

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge (Fayette, 1872-1920)
Breckinridge founded many institutions for social justice and reform in Lexington. But her work as a suffragist, fighting for women to win the right to vote, led to the ratification of the 19th amendment in Kentucky.

Hannah E. Brooks (McCracken, 1841-1926)
Brooks was the editor of the Kentucky Citizen, writing under the pen name of Hebe Hamilton. She was an ardent suffragist and supporter of prohibition.

Clara Brown (Gallatin, n. d.)
After being freed through her owner’s will, Brown earned enough money to return to Kentucky to buy freedom for her family. Her family could not be found, so she paid the rail expenses for 26 other former slaves to leave the state. Not until she was in her 80s did she find her daughter and a brother.

Laura Clay (Madison, 1849-1941)
Supported herself and her activism by becoming a farm manager. She was an ardent suffragist who believed that the women’s vote should be extended by each state, not by a federal amendment. This caused a split with other Kentucky suffragists.

Mary Barr Clay (Madison, 1839-1924)
President of the American Women Suffrage Association, an organization which helped aid women to fight for the right to vote.

Mary Desha (Fayette, 1851-1911)
One of the three founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1890. She began life as a teacher and in 1885 was one of the first women to teach Native Americans in Alaska.

Elizabeth Cooke Fouse (Fayette, 1875-1952)
A member of the African American women’s club movement who joined co-workers in adopting the motto, “Lifting as we Climb,” an ethic that guided her commitment to social reform and racial equality.

Helen Fisher Frye (Boyle, b. 1918)
Re-energized the Danville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the 1950s-60s, and for 10 years remained its first female president. She also accompanied a group of high school girls who staged sit-ins in downtown Danville while the boys were involved in after-school athletics. Until her retirement, she was a teacher at Bates Middle School.

Margaret Garner (Boone, 1833-n. d.)
A Kentucky slave who escaped with her four children in 1856. When arrested in Ohio, Garner killed her two-year-old daughter rather than see her returned to a life of slavery. Toni Morrison’s well-known book Beloved is based on her story.
Read the article written about Margaret Garner in the Cincinnati Enquirer at the time of her escape. Read about the Margaret Garner archaeological project and view photos of her former home.

Eula Hall (Floyd, b. 1927)
Born on Greasy Creek in Pike County, she knew that simple preventive health care would make a difference in people’s lives. After years of striking with coal miners and picketing for high utility rates, she founded the Mud Creek Clinic. Inducted into the Kentucky Women Hall of Fame in 1987.

Josephine Henry (Woodford, 1843-1928)
Dedicated her life to justice and equality for KY women. She lobbied for the Married Woman’s Property Act that passed in 1894, and she was a suffragist who wrote for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible and authored Marriage and Divorce.

Belinda Mason (Letcher 1958-1991)
A Whitesburg native who was the only person with AIDS appointed to the National Commission on AIDS in 1990. A gifted spokesperson for the disease, a writer, and playwright.

Lois Morris (Jefferson, 1919-1989)
Morris was a city alderman and civil rights leader as well as a founder and president of the Louisville chapter of the National Council of Negro Women and the founder and executive director of the National Black Women for Political Action.

Carry Nation (Garrard, 1846-1911)
The infamous hatchet-swinging leader of the Temperance Movement, she dedicated her life to eradicating alcohol as a destroyer of family life.
Carry Nation moved to Kansas in 1890. The Kansas Historical Society has many items associated with her in their collection. Visit their site for more information about Nation, as well as a photo of her hammer and her purse.

Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain (Warren, 1856-1935)
The author of poems, essays, and short stories about western Kentucky, as well as a suffragist who worked to promote women’s rights to property and divorce.

Judi Conway Patton, First Lady of KY (Pike, b. 1940)
Has shaped the role of First Ladies by tackling tough issues like domestic violence, child abuse, and breast cancer. A tireless champion for the protection of families and children, she credits her mother as the inspiration for the work she does today. Visit First Lady Judi Patton’s Web site.

Alma Randolph (Daviess, b. 1957)
A council member at age 23 in Beaver Dam. When she realized that some school children needed clothing, she established Alma's Friends Foundation in Owensboro. As a gospel singer, she gives a benefit performance each year to raise money for these kids.

Charlotte Richardson (Greenup, b. 1938)
A descendent of both the Cherokee and Creek nations, she has spent time as an advocate for Native Americans of Kentucky. Served on Governor Patton’s Native American Heritage Commission which works on issues such as laws to protect Native American burial grounds.

Joan Robinett (Harlan, b. 1957)
A tireless activist chemical dumping in her own back yard. “This has been done to us because we were poor.” Helped start Dayhoit Citizens Group, which encourages people to get involved.

Delia Ann Webster (Trimble, 1817-1876)
Operated a farm in Trimble County which used the paid labor of freed blacks instead of slaves and operated as an Underground Railroad station for slaves seeking freedom in the North. Because of her abolitionist beliefs and actions, Webster was arrested, had her farm set on fire, and was ordered to leave the state of Kentucky. Visit KET's Web site to learn more about the Underground Railroad in Kentucky and people such as Delia Webster.

Mary Sue Whayne (Hickman, b. 1933)
Successfully fought a waste dump that would have brought 20,000 tons of out-of-state garbage a day into Hickman. Her sense of justice helped her overcome feelings of intimidation and helplessness.

Corinne Whitehead (Marshall, b. 1923)
Whitehead, a Benton native, has been an advocate for clean air, water, and land for decades. She helped found the Coalition for Health Concerns and continues to get the public’s attention with her passionate environmental agenda.

Evelyn Williams (Knott, b. 1915-2002)
Williams sat down in her road to protest an oil and gas truck from entering her property to service a well. Kentuckians for the Commonwealth joined her fight.

Click here to get informations in german!

Site Overview


A. What

Performing Arts
Public Service

B. When

View a selected history of women
View a selected history of women
Sounds and images
Civil War Diaries

C. Where

Central / Northern Kentucky
Western Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky
Southern Kentucky


Selected Readings
Educational Tools
Web tools
Archival Collections
Children's Books

E. About this Project

Women in Sports:

Minnie Adkins
Elizabeth Barret, Anne Lewis, Mimi Pickering, & Justine Richardson
Jane Burch Cochran
Joan Dance
Enid Yandell

Women in Business:

Nelda Barton-Collings
Julia Dinsmore
Laura Freeman
Mattie Mack
Lena Madesin Phillips
Caroline Burnam Taylor

Women in Education:

Helen Lew Lang
Katherine Pettit
Jane Stephenson
Cora Wilson Stewart

Women in Health/Medicine:

Mary Britton
Linda Neville
Ora Framer Porter
Louise Southgate, M.D.

Women in Journalism:

Linda Boileau
Alice Allison Dunnigan

Women in Law:

Pearl Carter Pace
Lt. Colonel Linda Smith

Women in Literature:

Effie Waller Smith

Women in Military:

Lt. Anna Mac Clarke
Capt. Helen Horlacher Evans
Julia Ann Marcum

Women in Music:

Sarah Ogan Gunning
Helen Humes
Lily May Ledford
Reel World String Band
Jean Ritchie
Mary Wheeler

Women as Pioneers:

Esther Whitley

Women in Public Service:

Governor Martha Layne Collins
Emma Guy Cromwell
Rep. Mary Elliott Flanery
Sen. Georgia Davis Powers
Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall

Women in Reform:

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Laura Clay
Eula Hall
Josephine Henry
Belinda Mason
Lois Morris
Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain
Charlotte Richardson
Joan Robinett
Mary Sue Whayne
Corinne Whitehead
Evelyn Williams

Women in Religion:

Eldress Nancy Moore
Rabbi Gaylia Rooks

Women in Science:

Sarah Frances Price
Ellen Churchill Semple

Women in Sports:

Terri Cecil-Ramsey
Geri Grigsby
Audrey Whitlock Peterson
Mary T. Meagher Plant