In 1978, the Kentucky Commission on Women started a campaign to bring attention to outstanding women who made significant contributions to Kentucky’s history.
The project, then called “Kentucky Women Excel” began as an exhibit at the 1978 Kentucky State Fair. Tens of thousands of Kentuckians viewed the watercolor portraits of six women from various backgrounds who worked in non-traditional ways during the eras in which they lived. Initially, when funds permitted, the collection of portraits was a traveling exhibit. But the Kentucky Commission on Women, in an effort to establish women’s rightful place in Kentucky’s history lobbied to have the portraits hung in the Kentucky State Capitol, creating a more appropriate balance to the statues and busts of men. In 1996, the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit found a permanent home in the West Wing and includes more than 60 portraits of Kentucky’s outstanding women.


Many of the portraits have additional information and video segments associated with them. Simply click on the links provided to access this additional information. To access all sixty-nine portraits, please note there are two pages of portraits available on this site.

t7(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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE ANNE BRADEN VIDEO CLIP.

t1(Logan County, 1906-1983) The daughter of a tenant farmer and laundress, Alice Allison Dunnigan 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE ALICE ALLISON DUNNIGAN VIDEO CLIP.

t3Marie Caldwell Humphries (Jefferson County) was the only girl in her graduating class of 10 students in Wren, Miss., at a time when girls weren’t expected to benefit from education. Marie was the valedictorian, an early sign she was destined to change the way society viewed the role of women. Marie entered business school, and after one year she landed a job as a secretary at the U.S. Air Force Base in Columbus, Miss. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE AND TO SEE A REPRINT OF THE 1969 DAILY BUGLE ARTICLE “REBELLION IN THE KITCHEN,” AN ARTICLE ON THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED KENTUCKY COMMISSION OFFICE WITH MARIE HUMPRHIES AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.

t6(Anderson County, 1919-1944) Anna Mac 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE ANNA MAC CLARKE VIDEO CLIP.

t5(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.

t4(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. READ MORE ABOUT DORIS WILKINSON

t7(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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO COMMENTARY BY DOLORES DELAHANTY.

t1(Trimble County, 1817-1904) Delia 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.

t3(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. READ MORE ABOUT CLARA SANFORD OLDHAM

t6(Hart County, 1919-1994) At age 15, Thelma Stovall went to work at the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company in Louisville to financially help with the family’s finances. Her single mother was raising two children during the Great Depression. She served three terms in the state House before being elected Kentucky’s secretary of state for three terms: 1956-60, 1964-68, and 1972- 75. She also served as state treasurer for two terms: 1960-64 and 1968-72. In 1975, she was elected the first female lieutenant governor in Kentucky. As lieutenant governor, she vetoed the General Assembly’s rescission of its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She was appointed as a member emeritus of the Kentucky Commission on Women by Governor Martha Layne Collins. READ MORE AND WATCH THE THELMA STOVALL VIDEO CLIP.

t5(Shelby County, 1936- ) Martha Layne 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE GOV. MARTHA LAYNE COLLINS VIDEO CLIP.

t4(Woodford County, 1843-1928) Josephine Henry 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE JOSEPHINE HENRY VIDEO CLIP.

t7(Fayette County, 1872-1920) Madeline 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE MADELINE BRECKINRIDGE VIDEO CLIP.

t1(Fayette County, 1849-1941) Laura 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO SEGMENT ON LAURA CLAY.

t3(Pike County, 1888-1948) Arriving in Pikeville in 1905, Katherine Gudger Langley 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE KATHERINE GUDGER LANGLEY VIDEO CLIP.

t6(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. 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE MARY ELLIOTT FLANERY VIDEO CLIP.

t5(Jefferson County, 1923-2016 ) In 1968, Senator Georgia Davis 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 was a member of various organizations and the recipient of numerous awards, including honorary doctorate degrees from both the University of Kentucky and Louisville. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO SEGMENT ON GEORGIA DAVIS POWERS.

t4(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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE MAE STREET KIDD VIDEO CLIP.

t7(Bourbon County, 1892-1971) In 1920, Margaret 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO SEGMENT ON MARGARET INGLES.

t1(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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO SEGMENT ON MARY BRECKINRIDGE.

t3(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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE GRACE JAMES VIDEO CLIP.

t6(Franklin County, 1869-1952) Emma Guy 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VIDEO SEGMENT ON EMMA GUY CROMWELL.

t5(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. 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. READ MORE AND WATCH THE VERNA MAE SLONE VIDEO CLIP.

t4(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. 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. READ MORE ABOUT CRIT LUALLEN.

t6(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.

t5(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.

t4(Warren County, 1855-1917) Caroline “Carry” Burnam 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.

t7(Jefferson County, 1934-1985) Arriving in Kentucky in the early 1950’s, Carol 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.

t1(Jackson County, 1914-1995) Following the death of her parents at age 13, Beula Cornelius Aspley Nunn moved to Glasgow to live with her sister and begin a new life. 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. READ MORE ABOUIT BEULA NUNN.

t3(Fayette County, 1888-1955) Lucy Hart 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.

t6(Franklin Counties, 1852-1942) At the age of seventeen, Julia Britton 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.

t5(Pike County, 1927- ) For almost 40 years, Eula 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.

t4(Jefferson County, 1927-2008) Dr. Lilialyce 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. 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. READ MORE ABOUT DR. AKERS.

t7(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.

t1(Jefferson County, 1869-1934) Louisville native Enid 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.

t3(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.”

t3(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.