Notable Women

Adwon, Sally 
Tulsa resident; first woman general manager of an Oklahoma television station (KTUL).

Anderson , Lulu D.
From Drumright; served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives 1922-1923.

Axton, Mae Boren (1914-1997)
Songwriter best known for co-writing "Heartbreak Hotel" - Elvis Presley’s first single on RCA. Taught English in high schools in Ada and Frederick before moving to Florida. Hosted radio show. Over 200 of her songs were recorded. Mother of songwriter, signer, actor Hoyt Axton. Authored Country Singers As I Know ‘em (Austin: Sweet Publishing Co, 1973).

Barnard, Kate (1874-1930)
First women in the United States elected to statewide office (1907) (at a time when no women had the right to vote).Served as Oklahoma Commissioner of Charities and Corrections for 8 years. Promoted prison, labor and social welfare reform.Buried at Fairlawn Cemetary in Oklahoma City.

Bassett, Mabel Luella Bourne (1876-1953)
Oklahoma’s third Commissioner of Charities and Corrections (1923-1947); promoted humane treatment and decent living conditions for inmates; helped establish State Pardon and Parole Board; unsuccessful candidate for the US Congress in 1932

Bellmon, Shirley
Crafts supporter, businesswoman, First Lady of Oklahoma; Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame (2001).

Benson, June Tompkins (___?-1981)
When elected mayor of Norman, became first woman mayor in Oklahoma (1957). Women’s suffrage advocate and educator. Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame (1985).

Bergdall, Obera Jean Richert (1929-2006)
First female chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party (1978-1983).
Carl Albert Award for life-long service to the Oklahoma Democratic Party (2004).

Blackburn, Ida 
Television pioneer including association with Romper Room TV show; Oklahoma's first Hollywood correspondent; Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame (2001).

Bost, Jessie Thatcher 
First female graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (today Oklahoma State University) (1897); first woman to graduate from any college in Oklahoma.

Breaux, Zelia Page 
Oklahoma City music teacher who nurtured the talents of aspiring musicians including Charlie Christian and Jimmy Rushing and instructed author Ralph Ellison.

Brooks, June
From Ardmore; headed June Brooks Oil and Gas Company; served on Interstate Oil Compact Commission. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1982).

Butler, Cleora (1901-1985)
Born in Texas; African-American; restaurant owner and caterer; author of Cleora’s Kitchens: The Memoir of a Cook and Eight Decades of Great American Food (Council Oak Books)

Cleghorn, Mildred Imach (1910-1997)
Born in Fort Sill as an Apache prisoner of war; served as chairman of the Fort Sill Chiricahua/Warm Spring Apache Tribe for 18 years(1977-1995). Oklahoma Hall of Fame (1940).

Cole, Helen Te Ata Gale (1922-2004)
Served one term as Mayor of Moore; served in the State House of Representatives (Republican-Moore) from 1979 to 1984. Elected to State Senator (District 45 – Tulsa) where she served from 1984 to 1988 and again from 1991 to 1996.. Proud to be a member of the Chickasaw Nation, Cole was a niece of famous Oklahoma story teller Te Ata Fisher.

Coleman, Bessie (1892-1926)
Born in Atlanta, Texas to a sharecropper family of thirteen childred, Coleman graduated from eighth grade and attended one semester at Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma before running out of funds and moving to Chicago. Excluded from US flight schools by her race, she traveled to France where she became the first woman to earn an International Aviation License and the world's first licensed black aviator. The Bessie Coleman Commemorative Stamp is the 18th in the U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series.
Cravens, Vinita Mary Giles (1909-1994)
Born in Shawnee; impresario who promoted the performing arts and brought Broadway-style productions to Oklahoma. Known as the "Grand Dame" of Oklahoma City theater. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1986).

Crawford, Isabel (1865-1961)
Born in Canada; worked for ten years at the turn of the century as a Baptist missionary at Elk Creek and later Saddle Mountain in Southwest Oklahoma teaching Kiowa Indians how to read. Also taught them about the Bible; translated the Lord's Prayer into sign language; published two books: Kiowa – A Woman Missionary in Indian Territory (a compilation of her journals) and Joyful Journey – Highlights on The High Way: An Autobiography.

Crosby, Dr. Jeanette Smith (1872-1955)
Elected Superintendent of Public Instruction for Commanche County; earned a Ph.D. and taught college at Weatherford.

Darby, Ruby (___?-1936)
Alva native. Blues singer known as "Queen of the Oil Fields." Traveled to oil boom towns to perform her risqué song and dance routines.

Davis, Alice Brown (1852-1935)
Born in Park Hill.Appointed principal chief of the Seminole tribe by President Warren G. Harding in 1922. First woman to hold the post and served until her death in 1935.

Debo, Angie (1890-1988)
Raised in Marshall. Teacher and a leading author and scholar on Indian history. Published numerous books including And Still The Waters Run. The University of Oklahoma Press, fearing it was too controversial, refused to honor their publishing contract. Later published by Princeton University Press. Shirley Leckie wrote her biography, Angie Debo: Pioneering Historian (Oklahoma Western Biographies, Vol 18). PBS documentary on Debo entitled Indians, Outlaws, and Angie Debo, was broadcast in 1988. Her papers are housed at Oklahoma State Library.

Ferguson , Elva Shartel (1866-1947)
Born in Novelty, MO; frontier newswoman co-published the Watonga Republicannewspaper (1921-1943). Her husband, Thomas Benton Ferguson, was Oklahoma’s sixth Territorial Governor (1901-1906). Authored They carried the Torch: The Story of Oklahoma's Pioneer Newspapers; her life was the basis of Edna Ferber’s classic novel and movie Cimarron.

Fisher, Mary "Te Ata" Thompson (1895 -1995)
Born in Emet, Indian Territory; Chickasaw actress and storyteller noted for dramatic interpretations of American Indian folklore. Graduate of Oklahoma College for Women (1919). Governor Henry Bellmon proclaimed her Oklahoma’s Official State Treasure (1987). Richard Green’s book Ata- Chickasaw Storyteller, American Treasure (University of Oklahoma Press) recounts her life.

Fluke, Louise Funk (1900-1986)
Born in Van Buren, AR; submitted the winning design for the Oklahoma state flag at the age of twenty-five. Studied art at Columbia University and the Chicago Art Institute; recipient of the Pioneer Woman Award presented by Gov. George Nigh (1982).

Gaylord, Edith Kinney (____-2001)
First woman to serve on the general news desk of the Associated Press' Washington Bureau. Member of Oklahoma Journalism Hall of fame. Benefactor of the InAsMuch Foundation.

Gumerson, Jean (1923-2006)
Jean Gilderhus Gumerson was a gracious, creative civic leader who left her mark across Central Oklahoma. Among her many posts, in her later years she served as head of Presbyterian Health Foundation. As chair of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, she pushed for what became the MAPS for Kids Initiative that raised funds to renovate or replace the city's rundown school buildings, upgrade buses and school equipment, and more.

Hall, Rubye Maie Hibler (1912-2003)
Born in Eufaula; first African-American appointed to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (1974-1980) and elected chair in 1978. Held a master's degree in English and speech from OU (1959) and also studied speech pathology and neurology at the OU Health Sciences Center. Spent 43 years in public education as a teacher, speech pathologist, psychometrist, diagnostician and consultant. Also CEO of Developmental Communication Associates. Chaired the Oklahoma Historical Society's Black Heritage Committee. Okahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1986).

Kirkpatrick, Jeane Jordan (1925-2006)
Born in Duncan. First woman appointed to serve as permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations (1981-1985). Served on President Ronald Reagan's cabinet. Political science professor at Georgetown University. Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute.

Korn, Anna Lee Brosius (1869-1965)
Born in Hamilton, Missouri. Married Frank N. Korn (1891). After a year living in Chickasha, the Korns settled in El Reno where Anna immersed herself in civic organizations. Her great loves were politics and history. Wrote the 1921 legislation that designated November 16 as Oklahoma Day. Organized and led chapters of the Colonial Daughters of America and Daughters of the American Revolution. Founded Daughters of Democracy, Oklahoma’s first chapter of Democratic Women, Oklahoma Women’s Legislative Council. Lobbied to let women vote and serve on juries and for a separate ward for women at the state penitentiary. An officer on the Oklahoma Historical Society. Founded the Oklahoma Memorial Association (now Oklahoma Heritage Association) which maintains the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Lambird, Mona Salyer ( -1999)
Born in Oklahoma City. Attorney with Andrews Davis Legg Bixler Milsten & Price. First woman president of the Oklahoma Bar Association (1996). Died in tragic road accident while vacationing in Turkey. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1995).  
Males, Lorena (1909-2005)
Community leader, piano teacher and "first lady of music in Western Oklahoma." Born in Forgan. married L.L. Red Males (1928). Lived in Cheyenne. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1996). 

Mesta, Perle Fried Skirvin (1890 -1975)
Socialite, diplomat. Born Sturgis, MO. Combined politics with entertaining. Appointed by President Harry Truman as minister to Luxembourg (1949-1953). Named Oklahoma's "Ambassador to the World" at the 1965 World's Fair. Authored Perle: My Story (1960). An ardent feminist, Mesta was a member of the National Women's Party and helped start the World Women's Party. In 1944, she was partially responsible for getting an ERA plank in the Democratic Party platform. Her masterful entertaining skills were parodied in Irving Berlin's play "Call Me Madame" thus earning her the title "the Hostess with the Mostess." Mesta returned to Oklahoma in 1973. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1997).

Metcalfe, Augusta Isabella Corson (1881-1971)
The daughter of Edward and Mary Corson, Augusta came from Vermillion, Kansas with her parents to Oklahoma Territory in 1886. In 1893 they settled on the newly-opened Cheyenne-Arapaho lands. In 1905, she married Jim Metcalfe and they had a son, Howard. But Jim left the family when Howard was two. While tending a farm and raising a child alone left little time to paint, she began a tradition that eventually made her famous across the nation. She wrote letters to friends and included drawings and painted pictures on the envelopes and letters. Her work eventually got noticed and her works were the subject of articles in Farmer’s Stockman, Oklahoma Today and Life Magazine. She continued to work the land for 78 years, often alone, but she always took time to draw and paint and her paintings offer an extensive picture of Oklahoma country life in the early days of statehood. She was almost 70 when nationwide public acclaim came to her work as the Sagebrush Artist. Her many honors included induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1968 and into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1983.

Morgan, Dorothy Pressler
Oklahoma's second female pilot, Morgan was one of the first women test pilots and was considered to be Oklahoma City's best stunt flier.

Nelson, Mary Jo (1927-2007)
Born in Maysville , OK in 1927, Mary Jo Nelson was a a reporter and editor for The Oklahoman and the Oklahoma City Times for nearly half a century. She started as a copy messenger at the newspapers in 1945 and retired in 1992 - the same year she was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. Starting in 1958, Nelson was the first woman to cover federal courts for The Oklahoman and Times. Later she was thfirst woman reporter in Oklahoma Capitol press corps inthe 1950s. When she worked for theTimes, she was the first female to cover county courthouse news in the 1960s. She was an aggressive reporter who dug for the truth and was respected for her expertise in city and county government and also in architecture and historic preservation. Ed Kelley with The Oklahoma said, "Her style, developed over a 47-year career, was marked by a relentless drive to get the story first and get it right. For a long time, she was a legendary figure in our coverage of local government, where she routinely exposed public officials who lied or fudged the truth."

Oliver, Jennie Harris (1864-1942)
Author and poet. Oklahoma's third poet laureate.

Patterson, Zella Justina Black (1909- )
Educator, historian, author. Born in Langston. Co-authored with Lynette Wert, Langston University: A History (OU Press: 1979). Head of the Home Economics Department at Langston University from 1965 to 1971. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1983). 

Peters, Susan Ryan 
From Anadarko. Founded the Kiowa Indian School of Art. Organized an art club for talented young Kiowa and sent their paintings to the Nichols Taos Fine Art Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. In 1928, several of these artists received favorable reviews at international art exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Some of their works were published the next year; many of these are now on display at Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1982).

Phelan, Camille
Phelan (1882-1946) was known as the creator of the Oklahoma History Quilt.

Phelps, Edna Mae (1920-2001)Born in Tulsa and a long time resident of Seminole. First woman to serve on the Oklahoma State Election Board (served 6 years). A graduate of Oklahoma A&M COllege (now Oklahoma State University) with a degree in journalism, she spent time durig WWII editing a newspaper in California. After the war, she and her husband returned to Seminole. President of the Seminole Democratic Women's Club in 1968 and President of the Okahoma Federation of Democratic Women's Clubs. Elected to three successive terms as member of the Democratic National Committee and was the state co-chairwoman of the organization to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Oklahoma. Member and chair of the Oklahoma State University Board of Regents and founder of the Friends of the OSU Library. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1986). (Source: Shawnee News-Star, Jan 9, 2001) 

Pittman, Evelyn La Rue (1910-1992)
Music teacher/composer. Taught 
in the Oklahoma City schools (1935-1956) before turning to composition to fulfill her life commitment to tell African-American history through music. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1986).

Robertson, Alice Mary (1854-1931)
Born at Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory (now Tullahassee, Oklahoma). Serve in the United States House of Representatives (Republican, Oklahoma 2nd District) from 1921 through 1922. She was only the second woman in America to serve in the US Congress and is the only woman to serve from Oklahoma. Prior to serving in Congress, worked as postmistress in Muskogee (1905-1913). Later was a welfare worker at the Veterans Hospital in Muskogee. Instumental in the founding of Henry Kendall College (now Tulsa University) and first person to receive an honorary degree from the College.

Robertson, Ann Eliza Worcester 
Born at Tullahassee. renown scholar of the Creek language. First woman to receive an honorary degree in the United States (1892). Credited with translating the New Testament for the Creek and Seminole tribes.

Salmon, Christine Fahringer (1916-1985)
Born in Audenried, PA. First woman elected mayor of Stillwater, OK. Architect and professor of Housing and Interior Design at Oklahoma State University. First woman admitted to the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Did research and advocated for handicapped issues and handicapped assessability for buildings. Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame (1982).

Sawner, Lena Lowery (1874 -1949)
One of Oklahoma's first black activists, Lena Sawner was principal of the segregated Douglass School in Chandler. Elegant and stylist, she was a wonderful role model to her students. Her husband, George, was a successful businessman and the pair were civic leaders and philanthropists in Chandler.

Stout, Juanita Kidd (1919-1998)
Born in Wewoka. First African-American woman admitted to the Oklahoma Bar. First black woman elected to any bench in the nation (1959) and the first black woman to sit on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (1988). The only child of teachers Henry and Mary A. Kidd, she taught music in the high schools at Seminole and Sand Springs, before attending law school. President Kennedy appointed her a special ambassador to the Kenya Independence Celebration is 1963. BA from University of Iowa; J.D. and LL.M. degrees from Indiana University. OSU Bennett Award recipient (1980). Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1983).
Sturgeon, Sally Lewis Stephens 
First woman in the United States to be appointed State health inspector (Oklahoma - 1920). An opponent of the women's rights movement.

Teague, Bertha Frank (1898-1991)
Born in Carthage, Mo. Basketball coach. Began at Cairo High School (1926) but soon moved to Byng (1927-1969). There she achieved a career record of 1,152 to 115. Dubbed "Mrs. Basketball", she was the first women inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame (1985). Inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame (1989). AuthoredBasketball for Girls. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1985).

Tull, Pat (1936-2007)
Handwriting expert and owner of Professional Document Examiners, Pat Tull was active in many organizations including the Central Oklahoma Chapter of National Association of Women Business Owners, , High Noon, Inc., and the Exchange Club Center for the prevention of Child Abuse in Oklahoma City.

Wadkins, Opaline Deveraux 
De-segregationist nurse educator. Earned a Masters Degree in Public Health from University of Oklahoma. Came to Oklahoma in 1938 to work for the Department of Public Health. Organized first school in Oklahoma City to train black nurses. Worked to desegregate the College of Nursing at the University of Oklahoma in 1950s. Established the School of Nursing at Langston University in 1970s. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1993).

Wallace, Edyth Thomas (1880-1975)
Nationally syndicated columnist with the Daily Oklahoman and Times. Had a radio show on WKY. 
Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1982).

Waters, Clara
First woman in the US to head an all-male state prison(1927-1935. Implemented numerous legislative intiatives to bring in-house educational and vocational training programs to inmates which eventually evolved into Lakeside School, the first fully accredited prison high school in the United States.

Wilson, Alma Bell (1917-1999)
Born in Pauls Valley. First female appointed (in 1982) to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and its first female chief justice. Earned her JD from the University of Oklahoma (1941) when less than 3 percent of the nation's lawyers were women. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1983) and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (1996).

Wise, LuCelia
Kingston native LuCelia Rose (Roberts) Wise (1913-2006) authored Oklahoma's official book honoring the American bicentennial.

Wynn, Valree Fletcher 
Cameron University professor and first black to teach at Lawton High School, to teach at Cameron University and to serve on the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges. Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame (1996). 


We are grateful for the information available in the other lists mentioned below as well as information in the Oklahoma Women's Almanac.
Tulsa Library's Bios of Notable Oklahoma Women
Read bios in The Oklahoma Women's Almanac 
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