Important Women in Kansas History

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Peggy Hull

Who doesn’t like to root for the underdog? There’s no better vision than watching women rise to success at levels believed to be reachable only by men.

In the early years, women got married and raised children, or took jobs as teachers and nurses. But with war came opportunities. During each of the world wars, when men went off to the front line, they left jobs back home that still needed to be done. Women were recruited to fill the space, but not expected to be successful. In fact, it was expected that women would happily return to raising the children when the soldiers returned, but that wasn’t always the case.

Peggy Hull (1889-1967)

Women tend towards the emotional side of events; the pain a parent feels for a sick child, the struggle of a daughter watching her mom deal with Alzheimer’s. Hull, the first woman accredited by the U.S. government as a war correspondent, brought home the human side of our soldiers’ lives in war and the stories of those they left behind.

Mabel Chase (1876-1962)

Not much information is readily available on Chase, but according to the Kansas Historical Society, she ran for office after her husband retired as sheriff. She was the first woman elected sheriff in the U.S.

Georgia Neese Clark Gray (1898-1995)

A supporter of Harry Truman, Gray was quite active in the Democratic Party. Truman appointed her the first female Treasurer of the United States.

Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952)

McDaniel began performing with her family’s traveling group, the Henry McDaniel Minstrel show. Back in those days, Hollywood believed African American actors could only be cast as maids, cooks, nannies or other servants. McDaniel is quoted as saying she would rather make $700 a week playing a maid than $7 a week being a maid. She gained many powerful friends in Hollywood, including Clark Gable. He recommended her for the part of Mammy in Gone with the Wind. This role earned her a nomination for an Academy Award – and a win for Best Supporting Actress, both were firsts for African American performers. She also was the first African American woman to sing on the radio.

Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor (1833-1910)

Not content to settle for the role society wanted her to fill, Taylor became the first woman in the U.S. (perhaps the world) to earn a doctorate in dentistry. Originally interested in medicine, Taylor found most medical schools refused to allow female students. One professor recommended she go into dentistry, but she was still denied an education. She started learning “on the side” from the Dean of the Ohio College of Dental Surgery and later a recent graduate from the school. After completing her unofficial studies, Taylor opened her own practice. Eventually she was accepted into the Iowa State Dental Society and was accepted as a doctorate student at Ohio College of Dental Surgery.