The Kentucky Commission on Women is dedicated to
elevating the status of women and girls in the Commonwealth,
empowering them to overcome barriers to equity, and
expanding opportunities to achieve their fullest potential.

Kentucky Women Remembered

Each year, the Kentucky Commission on Women puts out a public notice asking for nominees to the Kentucky Women exhibit in the State Capitol. These nominations are reviewed by the Commissioners and two to four are selected.

Here are a few Kentucky women who have made history and changed the lives of future generations.

List of Current Kentucky Women Remembered

(Jefferson County, 1927-2008)
Dr. Akers is a petite woman with a soft-spoken voice, but when she detects inequality or injustice, it's with the roar of a lion that she goes to work as a catalyst for change. As an educator, Dr. Akers' involvement never stopped at the classroom door. She encouraged her students to participate in the passage of the Kentucky Equal Rights Amendment and the march in D.C. to support the national ERA. In the 1980's, Akers helped organize the first show for women-owned businesses in Kentucky. In 1993, Dr. Akers attended the UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and was later named Program Chair for the national conference on sustainable development that drew more than 2,000 people from all 50 states and six foreign countries. Akers is a representative to the UN Commission on Women, and has presented seminars at the UN's Third and Fourth World Conferences in Kenya and China. Dr. Akers has been actively involved with BPW at both the local and national levels encouraging women to break through the glass ceiling and challenge the status quo. Her work on the BPW Foundation has provided mature women with scholarships to improve their education and advance their careers.

(Boyle County, 1883-1967)
Alcorn, a teacher at the Kentucky School for the Deaf in Danville, developed the Tad-Oma method for teaching children who are deaf and/or blind that is used internationally today. This method teaches children how to speak through touching their teacher's cheek, feeling vocal vibrations.

(Henderson County 1879-1947)
  Kentucky’s most decorated woman veteran of the First World War was born in Henderson and graduated from the Owensboro City Hospital School of Nursing in 1904.  Nurse Arvin joined the American Red Cross and was stationed at Base Hospital #5 on June 30, 1918, in Boulogue-sur-mer, France, when German bombs fell in and around the location.  Nurse Arvin remained at her post, stead-fast, taking command, and treating wounded soldiers.  For her actions and unrelenting presence, she received official recognition from the three major allied nations:  France, England, and the United States of America.  Nurse Arvin received the French Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) Medal, the British Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class (Associate) presented by Prince Edward, and a U. S. Army congratulatory letter and “Official Citation” from legendary WWI General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing.  The citation allowed Nurse Arvin to receive the prestigious Purple Heart Medal, an award then presented for bravery.  Nurse Arvin exemplified the best of America’s caring, strength, and loyalty to countrymen.       

(Boone County, 1939-2004)
Hannah's life is a shining example of public service, activism, and dedication to improving the lives of women. She served on President Carter's Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity for Women and as chair of the Kentucky's Women's Political Caucus and the Kentucky Commission on Women. She was also instrumental in restoring and establishing the historic Dinsmore Homestead in Boone County, Kentucky.

(Webster County, 1929)
  In 1977, this 48 year-old active community leader and mother of five became a widow.  Determined to support her family and continue the business started by her husband, she acquired a business partner; returned to school; and became a licensed nursing home administrator.  The business grew to encompass numerous nursing homes in eastern Kentucky.  Other ventures included:   banks, rental properties, newspapers, a cinema and pharmacy.  Barton-Collings, a diversified business owner, utilized her knowledge and skills by serving her community, state, and nation.  A five-time Kentucky delegate/28 year Committee woman to the Republican National Committee, she was the first woman from Kentucky to address the RNC and call the meeting to order.  She was the first woman elected Chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Institute of International Affairs.  President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Federal Council on Aging and President George H. W. Bush appointed her to the President’s Council on Rural America. A resident of Corbin, Barton-Collings serves on numerous boards, including the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership, UK Center on Aging, and University of the Cumberlands Board of Visitors.  Barton-Collings has received multiple awards, including an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the Cumberlands, John Sherman Cooper Distinguished Service Award from Kentucky Business and Professional Women, and the Dwight David Eisenhower Award.  As the President and Chairman of the Board of Bretara, LLC and Tri-County Cineplex, LLC, Barton-Collings exemplifies the qualities of a leader and continues to generously support various educational institutions, civic endeavors, and charitable organizations. 

(Jefferson County, 1924-2006)
In the tradition of the greatest freedom fighters, Anne Braden has spent the last fifty years helping to lead a generation of activists from the labor and civil rights movements. Ms. Braden has been a role model and friend to such well know figures as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, Angela Davis, The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and she continues to energize the multi-racial movement for social justice. Few serious authors on the history of the civil rights movement fail to mention Anne Braden and her contribution to its progress. Anne Braden, activist, writer and organizer, embodies a vision of progression and humanitarianism of the highest calling.

(Fayette County, 1943- )
Lawyer, teacher, scholar, and activist are all words that describe Carolyn Bratt. She chaired the Kentucky Commission on Women and served as the first chair of the University of Kentucky President's Commission on Women. Carolyn also helped found the Women's Studies Program at UK. She has received numerous awards for her work to achieve equal rights for women and has been inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

(Fayette County, 1872-1920)
Breckinridge, regarded by some as militant, was one of Kentucky's most active suffragists and a fervent supporter of the nineteenth amendment. She married Lexington Herald Leader editor Desha Breckinridge and edited the women's pages, emphasizing civic and social issues over more conventional news. She also used the paper to advocate women's rights to vote.

(Leslie, Knott and Perry Counties, 1881-1965)
Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) in 1925 to provide infant and maternal care for people in remote areas of eastern Kentucky counties. FNS served as model for the entire nation and continues as a home health care service today. During her lifetime she raised over six million dollars for FNS.

(Jefferson County, 1911-2011)
Ms. Brown was a chief advocate for the environment and environmental preservation. She served on more than 17 Kentucky boards and more than 19 national boards with an emphasis on the environment and development. She received the Oak Leaf Award, which is the highest honor of the Nature Conservancy, along with a 500 acre tract of pristine land in the Kentucky River Palisades named in honor of her vision and generosity. Ms. Brown represented the United States at the United Nations Conference on World Population in Romania in 1974, and again in 1984 in Mexico. A leader on environmental issues, Ms. Brown was an early supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to combat global warming.

(Barren County, 1906-1992) In an era harsh for both women and African Americans, Willa Beatrice Brown sought great challenge. Influenced by aviatrix Bessie Coleman, in 1934 Brown began flight lessons at Chicago’s Aeronautical University. In 1937, she received both a master’s degree from Northwestern University and her pilot’s license, making her the first African American woman to be licensed to fly in the United States. In 1939, she received her commercial pilot’s license, making her the first African American woman to make a career of aviation and the person most responsible for preparing blacks for World War II. Brown became the first African American officer in the Civil Air Patrol in 1941, and the U.S. government named her federal coordinator of the Chicago Unit. She was the first woman in the U.S. to have both a mechanic’s license and a commercial pilot’s license. In 1942, she became a training coordinator for the Civil Aeronautics Administration and a teacher in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Brown trained more than 2,000 black pilots, nearly 200 of which became the Squadron at Tuskegee Institute, better known as the legendary "Tuskegee Airmen." In 2002, she was named one of the Women in Aviation’s 100 Most Influential Women in Aviation and Aerospace. In 2003, Willa Beatrice Brown was inducted into the Kentucky Aviation Hall of Fame at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.

(Rowan County, 1912-1998)
A family medicine physician in Morehead for 50 years, she often delivered babies in the surrounding hills only to come back and have a long line of patients waiting for her unforgettable good humor, sensitivity, and joy of doing what she liked best - practicing medicine.

(Anderson County, 1919-1944)
Anna Mac Clarke was one of the first black Kentucky women to enlist during World War II in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WMC). When promoted to a Platoon Leader in 1943, Clarke became the first African American WMC to command a white platoon and was instrumental in the desegregation of the Douglas Army Airfield in Douglas, Arizona. Anna died at 24 and is buried in Lawrenceburg.

(Fayette County, 1849-1941)
Clay organized and served at the first president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, which secured rights for women through legislative changes in education, property rights and wages. In the 1890's, Clay became affiliated with the National American Suffrage Association and established suffrage organizations in nine Southern states, traveling the country to promote voting rights for woman.

(Mason County, 1928-2002)
Widely renowned as one of the greatest jazz band vocalists of all time, Ms. Clooney's career spanned over four decades and included hit songs, film roles, and her own radio and television programs. Ms. Clooney spent much of her career in California but her heart was always in Kentucky.

(Shelby County, 1936- )
Collins became Kentucky's first female Governor in 1984. Born in Baghdad, she started as the clerk of the Supreme Court in 1975, and in 1979 became Lt. Governor. During her term, Governor Collins chose economic development and education as the two issues that needed attention in order to create needed changes in the lives of Kentuckians. The result was a $300 million school improvement package and a new Toyota automobile plant in Georgetown.

(Green County, 1763-1842)
Crawford made medical history when Dr. Ephraim McDowell performed the first known surgery to remove an ovarian tumor from her without anesthesia. She traveled sixty miles by horseback to Danville. Crawford, forty-seven at the time, lived to be seventy-nine years old.

(Franklin County, 1869-1952)
Cromwell began her political career when elected by the Senate as state librarian in 1896. In 1924, she successfully campaigned for, and was elected, Secretary of State, making her the first woman elected to statewide office in Kentucky. In 1927 she was the first woman elected state treasures and later appointed state parks director in 1932. She chronicled her years in politics in a book, Woman in Politics.

(Jefferson County, 1929- )
An advocate for women's and children's rights, Dolores Delahanty's history of public service in Kentucky includes over four decades of leadership and activism. Ms. Delahanty's involvement in the early civil rights movement spawned her passion for women's participation in leadership roles and elected office. She was instrumental in the passage of Kentucky's Fair Credit Law and was a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus.

(Logan County, 1906-1983)
  The daughter of a tenant farmer and laundress, the 13 year old Dunnigan began writing a weekly column on Russellville happenings for the Owensboro Enterprise.  She went on to work for Kentucky’s largest African-American newspapers, the Louisville Leader and Louisville Defender.  A graduate of Kentucky State University, she taught in Logan and Todd Counties for 18 years.  During World War II, Dunnigan moved to Washington, DC.  In 1947, she became the managing head of the Associated Negro Press and the first African-American woman accredited to cover the White House, U.S. State Dept., and U.S. Supreme Court.  In 1948, Dunnigan was the first African-American woman to cover a presidential tour: President Truman’s whistle-stop. In 1951, Dunnigan became the first woman to receive the Capital Press Club “Best All-Around Newsman for 1951.”  In 1961, she served on the Committee of Equal Employment Opportunity under Vice President Johnson.  Dunnigan, “Kentucky’s Persistent Fighter,” worked to expose injustices in America, South America, Haiti, and Africa.  She was an internationally-known reporter. She received degrees from the Normal and Industrial Institute, West Kentucky College, Louisville Municipal College, Tennessee A & I, Howard University and an honorary doctorate from Colorado State College.  Dunnigan authored two books:  A Black Woman’s Experience from the School House to the White House and The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians.  In 1982, Dunnigan was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. An historic marker honoring Dunnigan’s life and ground-breaking accomplishments stands in the heart of Russellville’s town square.

(Boyd County, 1867-1933)
In 1921, Mary Elliott Flanery was the first woman elected to the Kentucky State legislature and was named Kentucky's Most Prominent by the Kentucky Historical Society. She appealed to the things the "good people back home needed: hard roads and plenty of them, good schools and more of them, and a real Eastern Normal School" Additionally, Flanery focused her concerns on Kentucky's marriage and divorce laws, educational reform, and sponsored the Shepard-Towner Maternity Act. She introduced the bill that created Morehead State Teachers College. Mary Elliott Flanery was a University of Kentucky graduate and taught in Elliot and Carter Counties. In addition to being part of the Kentucky Legislature and educator, Flannery was a journalist for the Ashland Daily Independent. In her weekly column, "Impressions of Kentucky's Legislature," Flanery called for social change. An active volunteer in her community, she fought for women's suffrage through the KY Equal Rights Commission, and was active in both the Daughters of the Revolution and General Federation of Women's Clubs of Kentucky. In 1926, Ms. Flanery founded the John Milton Elliott chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. After her death in 1933, a bronze marker was affixed to her seat number 40 in the House of Representatives, as a permanent memorial of her service to the Commonwealth.

(Harrison and Jefferson Counties, 1903-1966)
Gregg graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1924 with a degree in agriculture and home economics. She was one of the first nutritionists to suggest that American diets included too much meat and starch and not enough vegetables. In 1942, Gregg began a daily food column in the Louisville Courier Journal which continued for two decades, influencing and preserving many of Kentucky's culinary traditions.

(Pike County, 1927- )
For almost 40 years, Hall has been a community organizer in Eastern Kentucky. Growing up off Greasy Creek in Pike County, Hall knew that simple preventative health care would have made such a difference in people's lives, so she founded the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel. She was a woman ahead of her times for developing this one-of-a-kind community ¬based health facility.

(Woodford County, 1843-1928)
She dedicated her life to the pursuit of justice and equality for women in Kentucky. After years of lobbying and speaking to support the Married Women's Property Act, it passed in 1894. She was an ardent suffragist who wrote for The Woman's Bible, by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Henry was also the author of Marriage and Divorce, as well as other books.

(Adair County, 1924-2007)
At 51 years old, Dr. Allie Hixson's life took a new direction when she became involved in the national movement for women's equality. Dedicated to women's issues, Dr. Hixson has become one of the most prominent feminist leaders in Kentucky and an important leader in the National Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Movement. Dr. Hixson served as co-organizer of the Kentucky Pro-ERA Alliance and the Kentucky Women's Agenda Coalition, was elected chair of the Kentucky International Woman's Year in 1977, spoke at the National ERA Rally, and worked closely with Lt. Governor Thelma Stovall, among many other activities and achievements. Dr. Hixson is a woman of tremendous achievement against the odds, a woman who worked tirelessly to advance the rights and opportunities of women in her native state and the nation.

(Franklin Counties, 1852-1942)
At the age of seventeen, Hooks enrolled in Berea College, the only integrated school in Kentucky at that time. Known as a musical prodigy, she became an instructor of music while a student at the college, making her among the first African Americans to teach white students in Kentucky. In 1876, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee, embarking on a lifelong career of education and improving the lives of others, particularly those of her own race.

(Barren County 1929-2008)
Nelle Pitcock Horlander, who paved the way for women to lead in the labor movement, once dreamed of being a chemist until she was told the highest position for women chemists was washing test tubes. Disappointed, Horlander began her career in labor as a telephone operator for Southern Bell in Louisville. On her first day, she joined the Communications Workers of America Local 3310. She worked her way up the ranks to become the first woman communications consultant in 1964, and in the union, Horlander became the CWA steward within the first two years. In 1969, Horlander was elected its first female president. For over 50 years she served as a delegate to the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and for 42 years as a delegate to the Kentucky State AFL-CIO conventions. Horlander’s respect and knowledge led to her service on several boards including the Center of Labor Education and Research for the University of Louisville and the University of Alabama, the Governor’s Commission on Full Equality, and the Kentucky Commission on Women. Horlander was a tireless fighter for women’s equality, fairness, and diversity. She was a founding member of the Kentucky Women Advocates, the PRO-ERA Alliance, Jefferson County NOW, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Network and Coalition of Labor Union Women.  In 2004, Horlander was the first woman awarded the Kentucky Labor-Management Conference Labor Award.

(Madison County, 1911-1996)
Born to missionary parents in China, Dr. Hutchins came to Kentucky in 1939 and dedicated herself to improving maternal and child health. She served as medical director and board president of Berea's Mountain Maternal Health League for nearly 50 years, and was Berea's only pediatrician for decades. A mother of four, she brought vital family planning services to thousands of Eastern Kentucky women for the first time.

(Bourbon County, 1892-1971)
In 1920, Ingels became the first American woman to earn a master's degree from the University of Kentucky in mechanical engineering, a field traditionally dominated by men. She went on to pioneer the development of air conditioning while working for Carrier Corporation.

(Jefferson County, 1923-1989)
In the National Library of Medicine there is the story of a little known woman who helped to change the face of medicine in Kentucky. DR. GRACE MARILYN JAMES began her practice of pediatrics in the city of Louisville in 1953 when city hospitals were segregated by law. Despite the obstacles this overt racism created, Dr. James’ brilliance and tenacity could not be overlooked and she became the first African American woman on the faculty at the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine. She later became the first African American woman to obtain membership in the Jefferson County Medical Society and still weathered more challenges.. She faced the double jeopardy of convincing the white physicians that she had earned her status in the medical community as a qualified doctor of medicine, and as a woman she faced critics of black and white male physicians who ridiculed her vision, her outspokenness and her chosen clientele… the poorest children. Dr. James set out to serve the patients other doctors, black and white were reluctant to serve for economic reasons and partly because of the stigma for many of the children’s mothers were never married. The patients others passed up, she welcomed with no thought of how they would pay or the fact that they were young unwed mothers. She spoke publicly about issues well before their time such as the growing infant mortality rate among black babies and the medically underserved black community. She was a tireless activist for preventive care and universal health care. One of her former patients recalls, “I remember a very young mother showed up at Dr. James office with an infant that was noticeably dirty during her examination of the child she discovered the mother didn’t know how to bathe her child and had no one to teach her. Right then and there, Dr. James called all of the young moms from the waiting room and held a demonstration of how to properly bathe a baby.” She not only helped many young women become better mothers, but at her own expense she kept a closet filled with toys, books, diapers, blankets, hats, coats, baby supplies and especially newborn undershirts!! She would give these things away to her patients whenever she discovered the need. She went on to found the West Louisville Health Education Program and headed the Council on Urban Education. Dr. James conducted a series of public lectures where she advocated for young African Americans to become physicians and denounced racism, sexism and capitalism in the field of medicine.

(Bourbon County, 1904-1999)
Mae Street Kidd was an innovative business woman, civic leader and a skilled politician during a time when her gender and interracial background could have proved a detriment. She served in the KY General Assembly for 17 years successfully sponsoring a resolution ratifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which freed slaves and gave them the rights of citizenship, thus closing a dark chapter of Kentucky history. In 1972, Kidd sponsored House Bill 27, which created the Kentucky Housing Corporation to help finance low-income housing in Kentucky.  During her service in the General Assembly, Kidd became the first woman to serve on the Rules Committee.  Kidd's life and career are chronicled in Passing for Black, by Wade Hall.

(Pike County, 1888-1948)
  Arriving in Pikeville in 1905, Katherine was the first woman from Kentucky to serve in the United States Congress.  She was a Republican elected to the 70th Congress from the 10th Congressional District and was sworn in and seated December 5, 1927.  Langley was re-elected to the 71st Congress and her term expired March 3, 1931.  She was graduated from the Woman’s College of Richmond, Virginia and attended the Emerson College of Oratory in Boston, Massachusetts.  A teacher and accomplished presenter, Katherine served as the vice chairman of the Republican State Central Committee of Kentucky, first chair of the Kentucky Women’s Republican State Committee, railroad commissioner for the third Kentucky district from 1939-1942, chairman of the Pike County Red Cross Society during the First World War, and delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1924.

(Rowan and Fayette Counties, 1909-2002)
Mary Lucille Caudill Little has contributed much to the performing arts and various institutions throughout Kentucky. An accomplished singer, Ms. Little studied at Julliard before returning to Kentucky and becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the arts. Her numerous civic contributions includes serving as Founder and former Director of the Lexington Children's Theatre and Studio Players, and the Founder of the Bluegrass Girl Scout Council. To date, Ms. Little has given more than $21 million to area arts and education causes.

(Franklin County, 1952- ) Descended from two Kentucky governors, Crit Luallen places public service in the highest regard. She has served Kentucky with distinction, honor and integrity as a public servant. Her career encompasses the positions of State Budget Director, Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Secretary of the State Tourism Cabinet, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of the Arts, and Special Assistant to Governor Martha Layne Collins. She was also President of the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership, and served as Secretary of Governor Paul Patton’s Executive Cabinet for seven years before being elected for two terms as Kentucky State Auditor of Public Accounts. She uncovered millions of dollars in government fraud and questionable expenditures, leading to the criminal prosecutions of 32 individuals and referral of more than 200 cases to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigation. She has made it her mission to reach out to women and minorities to encourage their involvement in public service. As one of a hand full of women to ever be elected to statewide office, she sets the standard with her personal values, ethics, sense of accountability and principled decision-making for other aspiring women to emulate who are interested in making a difference in the Commonwealth and the nation.

(Johnson County, 1934-)
A true "Coal Miner's Daughter," Loretta Lynn has received more awards than any other woman in country music history. She is a member of the Country Music and Gospel Music Hall of Fame and received Kennedy Center Honors in 2003. Her autobiography, Coal Miner's Daughter, was made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1980. She has released 70 albums and had 55 top ten singles in her career.

(Nelson County, 1922- )
  Sister began her life in Kentucky, and the process of becoming a nun, with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in July 1953.  In 1965, she earned a Master’s degree in Hospital Administration from St. Louis University and, in 1966, was appointed President of St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington.  She held this position until 1988.  A true leader in healthcare management with a mind for business, Sister led this major acute healthcare facility through Medicare, Medicaid, and computer technology.   Sister’s impeccable leadership in administration and management led her to be the natural selection as the first President of the SCN Health Corporation.  Sister’s awards and board memberships are numerous.  A former President of the Lexington Hospital Council and Blue Grass Hospital District, Sister broke several barriers and was the first female to be appointed to both the Federal Reserve Board of Cleveland and Board of Directors of First Security National Bank & Trust Co. in Lexington.  Sister’s wealth of experience and zest for life led her to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee that assisted in the development of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the 5th largest foundation in the Commonwealth.

(Fayette County, 1928 - )
Jacqueline Noonan began her career as a pediatric cardiologist in 1955 with her residency in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Noonan’s skills in research led to her original description on hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is now known as Noonan Heart Syndrome. Her research has also led her to publish over 70 peer-reviewed scientific articles. She has received many awards for her scientific research and skills as a pediatric cardiologist. From 1964 to the present, Dr. Noonan has served as a Professor at the University Of Kentucky College Of Medicine, where is was one of the first faculty members. For almost 20 years, Dr. Noonan chaired the Department of Pediatrics. Not only are Dr. Noonan’s skills highly appreciated in the United States, but also aboard. Dr. Noonan has traveled extensively as a visiting professor where she has taught residents as well as evaluated many pediatric programs. Dr. Noonan has served on many boards, committees, and editorial boards during her tenure at the University Of Kentucky College Of Medicine.

(Jackson County, 1914-1995)
  Following the death of her parents at age 13, Nunn moved to Glasgow to live with her sister and begin a new life.  After high school, she attended Fugazzi Business College, married, and had three children.  In the 1940’s, when few women were business owners, she operated several small businesses, including the Glasgow Insurance Agency, Inc. and the Cornelius Credit Agency. In response to doubters, she said, “I bought it to prove that a woman can do anything on Earth she wants to, if she uses good sense.” She helped establish the Glasgow Chapter of BPW and was its first president.  In 1950, she re-married and had two children. In 1967, Nunn held a new title, “First Lady of Kentucky.”  In this capacity, she committed herself to the needs of the elderly, the young, and worked tirelessly to preserve Kentucky’s landmarks, antiques, and history.  As a self-described “professional beggar” for the state, she established the Kentucky Mansion Preservation Foundation, Inc. and raised needed funds for renovation.  Nunn continued her efforts with the renovation of White Hall, home of emancipationist Cassius Clay; the Mary Todd Lincoln House; and numerous other buildings, including many in Glasgow. Nunn also encouraged the KY Federation of Women’s Clubs to establish the First Lady miniatures.  In 1969, Morehead State University named its newest and largest women’s residence Beula C. Nunn Hall.  In 1971, nearly 6,000 members of women’s groups from across Kentucky held a “Beula C. Nunn Day” at Lexington’s Spindletop Hall. President Richard Nixon appointed Nunn to the Council on History Preservation and she received an Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.  Nunn treasured Kentucky and made a commitment to preserve Kentucky’s treasures.

(Daviess County 1921-2005)
Clara Sanford Oldham dedicated her life to improving the lives of women by founding Citizens Against Rape in 1977, a time when rape and sexual assault crimes were not taken seriously. Her organization led to the creation of Rape Victims Services and the Owensboro Area Spouse Abuse and Information Services, which are still in existence today. As the Director of the Social Welfare Program at Kentucky Wesleyan College she helped found the Center for Creative Choices. During this time, she served as president of the medical auxiliary, became a member of the Mental Health Association and served as board president to the local community mental health center. After taking time to raise her children, Oldham dove back into working to enhance the lives of others, but this time her work focused heavily on the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and ensuring equality for all women. Oldham co-founded the Owensboro National Organization for Women, served as a delegate to the KY Pro-ERA Alliance, a delegate to the White House Conference on Family in 1980, and was active in the American Association of University Women. Countless women responded to her mentoring as she encouraged education and career development for women at every opportunity. As a result, an award in her name was established at Girls, Inc., a local agency dedicated to developing girls who are “smart, strong, and bold”.

(Pike County, 1940 - )
Judi Patton tackled tough issues like domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and breast cancer in her role as First Lady. She was a tireless champion for the protection of families and children. Her sincerity and devotion to addressing serious issues in the Commonwealth are praised by the media and deeply appreciated by the people of Kentucky.

(Christian County, 1926-2006)
The first Kentucky woman nominated as a U.S. Senate candidate, Ms. Peden served on the first President's Commission on the Status of Women, and was the first woman appointed as Commissioner of Commerce in Kentucky. She also served as the national president of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. She was active for decades in economic growth issues at the national and state level.

(Jefferson County, 1964- )
Sports Illustrated called Mary T. Meagher Plant's win, "the fifth greatest, single event record of all time in any sport." She swam the butterfly stroke to three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. She has been a member of three U.S. Olympic Teams, in 1980, 1984, and 1988, and set two world records in the 100 and 200 - meter butterfly, hence her nickname to residents of Louisville, "Madame Butterfly."

(Jefferson County, 1923- )
In 1968 Senator Georgia Powers became the first African American, man or woman, to hold a seat in the Kentucky State Senate. Once in office, Senator Powers, a fighter for civil rights issues, introduced as her first bill a statewide fair housing law. During her twenty-one years in office, she sponsored civil rights legislation prohibiting sex, job, and age discrimination. She is a member of various organizations and the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorate degrees from both the University of Kentucky and Louisville. Senator Powers wishes to be remembered as "one who really cared."

(Fayette County, 1924)
Born and educated in Boston, Lillian Henken Press moved to Kentucky with her husband in 1952 as a young woman and has called the Commonwealth home ever since. She has accrued a lifetime of public service to her adopted state and its citizens. However, her achievements in three fields have had, and continue to have, lasting impact on the citizens of Kentucky. In 1964, as a volunteer for the Central Kentucky Mental Health Association, she directed a nine-county survey of mental health resources and needs whose findings and recommendations were significant factors in the later development of Kentucky’s statewide mental health services. She then organized and developed Kentucky’s first Regional Mental Health Board. The first Regional Board and the first Comprehensive Care Centers became the prototypes for a state system of regional centers that was proclaimed “the best in the nation” by the National Institute of Mental Health.  Lil became Executive Assistant to Commissioner Farabee in 1967 and served in that post until 1975. In late 1982, after three years in Washington as Special Assistant to Appalachian Regional Commission Chairman, Al Smith, she was recruited by Governor John Y. Brown to organize and direct the new Governor’s Scholars Program--a non-traditional, innovative summer program for Kentucky’s brightest rising high school seniors. In only its second summer it was heralded as an “Educational Utopia” by the education editor of the New York Times. Twenty thousand students have been motivated and inspired by this transformative Program, now in its 27th year of operation. Along the way, Lil organized 28 state Governor’s Schools into the National Conference of Governor’s Schools and served as its president until her retirement. In tribute, the association, now with 38 schools, has established a Distinguished Achievement Award in her name. After 2000, in retirement, Lil turned her attention to increasing the influence of women in the political process. Lil called together 13 women to discuss the creation of a new, independent Women’s Network to promote democratic values and focus on greater involvement of citizens, particularly women, in the political process. These “founding mothers” worked together for a year, writing Principals and laying a solid foundation before they began soliciting members for The Women’s Network, Advocates for Democratic Principals. Lil was named President and continues in that role today. The Women’s Network now has branches across Kentucky and more than 900 women. The Network has been recognized publicly by leading political figures as “the most important political development in recent history.” In 1992, Lil was awarded an honorary degree from Centre College. She was appointed to the Centre College Board of Trustees in 1994 and continues as a Trustee 16 years later.

(Warren County, 1849-1903)
A nationally known botanist, Price discovered numerous rare plants and is credited with classifying much of Kentucky's flora. Also a talented artist, she reproduced approximately fifteen hundred southern plants in pencil and watercolor.

(Boyd County, 1909–1991)
At nine, Gertrude Ramey’s life changed when her mother and siblings died of influenza, which forced Ms. Ramey to move from one home to another. The loneliness and homelessness helped Ms. Ramey empathize with those she would later spend her life caring for and loving. At 25 years old, she moved to Catlettsburg, Kentucky to open up a boarding house for defense workers. Three years later, Ms. Ramey spoke to the local Judge about keeping abandoned and neglected children whose only place to go was the jail or the poorhouse. In 1944, Ms. Ramey opened her very own children’s home, the Ramey Home. At the peak of The Ramey Home, more than 50 children lived with her. Ms. Ramey retired in 1988 after 45 years of working with children. However, she never really retired since she lived at the Ramey Home and continued to work closely with the new executive director until her death in 1991. Over the years, more than 3000 children stayed with Ms. Ramey at the Ramey Home. Like a true mother, Ms. Ramey put her heart into the children and never once charged a cent for her work.

(Hart County, 1871-1941)
Richardson graduated from the Ruth Medical College in Chicago and practiced medicine in hart County, Kentucky for forty-one years. Her outstanding medical career included successfully performing the first recorded surgery for the treatment of breast cancer. During her tenure she was able to bring many new and innovative medical procedures to Hart County.

(Jefferson County, 1945-2008) Joan Riehm’s distinguished career in communications, public service and civic affairs spanned more than three decades—beginning as a journalist at Louisville’s Courier-Journal and culminating in her serving for 15 years as the first woman deputy mayor of the city of Louisville. Riehm was particularly passionate about women’s issues, education, the environment and the beautification of Louisville; and she recognized that advancing the quality of life for women was crucial to Louisville’s future. She was one of the driving forces behind Benchmark 2000, a community-wide effort to document the status of women and girls in Jefferson County at the millennium, which led to the creation of the nationally acclaimed Women 4 Women organization in Louisville. Riehm co-founded the Leadership Kentucky program and her legacy of mentorship led to the creation of the Joan Riehm Women’s Leadership Fund. She was recognized nationally as an expert on local government reorganization.

(Perry County, 1922- )
Jean Ritchie has brought the beauty and richness of Appalachia to fans around the world. She grew up with a dulcimer in her hands and was a Fulbright Scholar in 1952. She recently received the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor bestowed to individual traditional artists in the nation. An author, songwriter, and performer, Ms. Ritchie's influence on traditional folk and popular music is immeasurable.

(Knott County, 1914-2009)
“At a point in life when most people slow down, Verna Mae Slone found her voice”, wrote Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald Leader. Verna Mae Slone was a great source of pride to the people of Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky particularly the community of Pippa Passes. Concerned over the many lies, half-truths and stereotypes that were written about mountain people of Kentucky, and eager to preserve a dignified historical account of the family to leave her children and grandchildren, Verna Mae, after raising five sons began to put her thoughts on paper. She never graduated from high school but went on to author six books, the most popular being her first, What My Heart Wants To Tell at age 65. Her accounts of life in the mountains shattered many of the myths about the culture in Appalachia and were so widely received she became known internationally. Verna Mae received fan mail from people all over the world but the one letter that meant the most to her was from a leper colony on an island off the coast of Africa. They said her book, second to the Bible, gave them a reason to live. “It told”, they wrote,” how you could survive under any circumstances”. Verna Mae authored five other books including the novel Rennie’s Way and a book about Appalachian Language called How We Talked. Thousands of people over the years who had read her books traveled from all over the world to sit at the feet of Verna Mae and listen to her expound on the virtues and values of the people from the hills and her pride in being Appalachian. In 1993 her portrait became the centerpiece of photographer Barbara Beirne’s exhibit Women of Appalachia at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Fifteen of the 1800 quilts she made decorate the walls of the historic Hindman Settlement School. She once compared quilts to life, stating,” when we are born we are given a bundle of scraps; the way we put them together is up to us.” Known as the Grandma Moses of the Mountains, she is widely known for her works of art, and her extraordinary writings that brought honor and pride to the people of the mountains of Kentucky. What My Heart Wants To Tell is in its eighth publication in libraries here and in Europe.

(Fayette County, 1888-1955)
Smith spent her life improving education and health services for Kentucky's African Americans. She was principal of the Booker T. Washington grade school in Lexington from 1935-1955, and promoted the study of black history throughout the nation.

(Jefferson County, 1793-1858)
Mother Spalding, of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, was one of the founders of that organization and the Nazareth College (the predecessor of Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky) and was also responsible for the establishment of numerous hospitals, schools, orphanages, clinics, and other social service facilities throughout Kentucky. Her ministry touched parts of the globe as far away as India. Thousands of men, women and children benefited from her missionary work.

(Kenton County, 1857-1941)
Dr. Louise Southgate was one of the first women physicians in Northern Kentucky, where she practiced for over 35 years. In addition to her work as a physician, Southgate was an ardent suffragist. She participated in the 1910 Kentucky's Equal Rights Association conference held in Covington.

(Muhlenberg, Jefferson and Fayette Counties, (1907-1997)
Ann Stokes was a champion for the elderly in Kentucky, fighting for the rights of nursing home patients. She opened quality nursing homes facilities in Greensburg, Corbin, Frankfort, Stanford, and Louisville; helped start the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (formerly known as Kentucky Nursing Home Association); and lobbied for stricter laws governing nursing homes standards, including licensing, professional staff training, and fire codes. A compassionate caregiver, her courageous and unrelenting struggle for excellence in nursing home care made her a pioneer in Kentucky and at the national level.

(Jefferson County, 1934-1985)
Arriving in Kentucky in the early 1950's, Sutton was the first female managing editor of a major metropolitan newspaper - The Courier Joumal- a position she held from 1974-1976. She was named "Woman of the Year" by TIME magazine in 1976. She made her most enduring mark at the newspaper and in her profession by transforming what had been strictly an old-fashioned section of society news and household hints into a provocative mirror on cultural, social and economic upheavals of the late 1960's and early 1970's.

(Warren County, 1855-1917)
Taylor, a fashion designer and dressmaker, turned a small dressmaking business in her Bowling Green home into a major enterprise which served customers in every state and many foreign countries, bringing renown to her hometown. With annual profits of more than $50,000 she was one of Kentucky's most financially successful women of her time.

(Shelby County, 1799-1880)
At a time when education was considered by many to be wasted on women, Tevis was emphatic in her belief that learning science was appropriate for women. She and her husband founded Science Hill Academy in 1825 to fill void of higher education for women.

Boyd County, (1881-1982)
Jeannette Bell Thomas preserved and promoted Eastern Kentucky traditions through her music and stories. As a young girl she dreamed of being an actress, but at 18, armed with a high school education and a four-month business certificate, she began work as a stenographer. While working for a circuit judge to keeping record of proceedings, she followed the judicial circuit through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky often boarding with local families. Thomas began to transcribe what she heard convinced the families' orations had retained their original form from the 16th century. After 12 years as a stenographer, she traveled to New York to pursue her childhood dream. Although unsuccessful in show business, she used her stenographer skills to write simple scenarios for early silent films. Thomas was encouraged to introduce these stories and ballads to the outside world. In 1926, she "discovered" a blind fiddler from Rowan County, and negotiated a recording contract for him, arranged an international concert tour, and wrote her first of eight books about him. Through her eight books on life in the mountains she introduced the rest of the world to life in Appalachia. She returned to Ashland in 1931, and in 1932, created the first annual Folksong Festival. This festival lasted 40 years and highlighted the music from the mountains, attracting thousands each year.

(Fayette County, 1910-1997)
Harriet Van Meter founded the International Book Project, shipping millions of books, procured though private donations, all over the world. Operated from her basement for 20 years, the project continues to carry on Van Meter's mission to feed the hunger for books in developing countries and needy areas of United States. Convinced that exposure to cultural differences would enrich our lives, foster global friendships, and strengthen world unity, Van Meter touched lives in Kentucky and all over the world with her selfless dedication of time, energy, and money.

(Trimble County, 1817-1904)
Webster worked as an Underground Railroad agent the mid 1840's and set up a station of the Underground Railroad to aid and assist fugitive slaves from Kentucky and the South.

(Fayette County, 1890-1971)
Weldon led the efforts of Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Kentucky to improve the quality of rural life for woman in the Commonwealth. In a year's time she organized home clubs in most of Kentucky's one hundred and twenty counties, campaigning for financial assistance from fiscal courts.

(Kenton County, 1941-1991)
Judge West was the first woman appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She served as District Judge in the Kenton District Court for three terms until her Appeals Court appointment. In addition to her judicial accomplishments, Judge West served as President and Founder of the Hope Cottage Guild and on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.

(Lincoln County, 1755-1833)
Esther Whitley's life exemplifies Kentucky pioneer women -strong, adventurous, and spirited. Ms. Whitley and her husband built the first brick home in Kentucky complete with the first "American" race track on which horses ran counter-clockwise on an oval track with a clay surface. She was also an accomplished markswoman and her rifle (with engraved initials) is on display at the William Whitley House in Lincoln County.

(Fayette County 1936 - )
A Lexington native, Doris Wilkinson was the first African American student to graduate from the University of Kentucky following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, as a member of the historic pioneering class of 1954 to graduate in 1957 after 3 ½ years. Wilkinson continued her education and earned her doctorate in sociology at Case Western Reserve University. She returned to Kentucky and became the first full time African American female faculty member at the University of Kentucky. During her tenure at the University of Kentucky, Wilkinson became the founder and first director of “Black Studies” renaming it the African American Studies and Research Program. She also created the African American Heritage Trail in Lexington, founded the Forum for Black Faculty and the Carter G. Woodson Lecture Series, and the Black Women’s Conference. Throughout her career she has served as president of three professional organizations; the District of Columbia Sociological Society, Society for the Study of Social Problems and the Eastern Sociological Society, an honor bestowed upon only a few women social scientists.  Wilkinson has published numerous research articles and critical essays on race and gender. As a result of her extensive publications on race relations, her profound professional and community service, Wilkinson has received many honors including the American Sociological Association’s Dubois-Johnson Frazier Award, a Ford Fellowship to Harvard, and the University of Kentucky’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni Award. Doris Wilkinson continues to teach at the University of Kentucky where her determination and influence are shown through her research and students. 

(Jefferson County, 1869-1934)
Louisville native Yandell, was a highly respected and renowned sculptor who achieved national prominence at the early age of twenty-one. Her public statuary in Kentucky includes the Hogan Fountain and the Daniel Boone statue both in Louisville's Cherokee Park.

Kentucky Women Remembered