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Photo courtesy of Norsworthy family.

"As Long as Life Shall Last": The Legacy of Arkansas Women

Please note: The women's history exhibit is temporarily closed while its intellectual and physical scope is being reevaluated. When it is reinstalled it will focus more specifically on efforts by women’s patriotic groups to save the historic Old State House. The reinstallation will take place along with upgrades of other permanent Old State House exhibits. Most artifacts in the original women’s history exhibit will be removed and “rested” for conservation reasons.  

A dozen associate curators from across the country joined Dr. Jeannie Whayne, principal curator and professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, to create "As Long as Life Shall Last": The Legacy of Arkansas Women. The artifacts presented offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of both ordinary and famous Arkansas women. The exhibit focuses on letters, diaries, and journals written not just by articulate, well-educated women, but often by equally eloquent farm women struggling on the frontier. Not only are private writings presented, but the professional pen of famous Arkansas women who were journalists and female politicians are featured as well. The exhibit demonstrates the complexities of women's experiences from differing races and classes over the past two centuries.

The exhibit has many facets. Folk life explores women's contributions to their communities via art, song and storytelling. Home life elaborates on the assorted and diverse roles of the housekeeper: wife, mother, educator, cook and nurse. Be it temperance or suffrage or career, this exhibit examines the numerous causes that women have championed and challenged since the early 19th century. Women's contributions to the work force before and after World War II are also explored. Dr. Ida Brooks, daughter of Joseph Brooks of the Brooks-Baxter War fame, is featured among famous Arkansas women; she was one of the first female physicians in Arkansas and the state's first female psychiatrist. Dr. Brooks taught medicine in the State House while the building was home to the University of Arkansas Medical School.

See also the Arkansas News issue for Spring 1990: "The Women of Arkansas."