Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Aram Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Janann Sherman

Committee Member

Beverly G. Bond

Committee Member

Charles W. Crawford


This dissertation focuses on the progressive reform efforts of Adolphine Fletcher Terry, a social activist in Arkansas from 1902-1976. Terry was a white southern woman spurred to action during pivotal moments in Arkansas, southern, and national history. Her story revealed one side of social reform and racial progress in the South. Her reform efforts shed light on regional and women's studies as well as on the intersection among class, gender, and race relations during the segregation era. Terry's life story is a good example of the tug-of-war between southern tradition and modern change that many southern liberals dealt with during the twentieth century. She graduated from Vassar College in 1902, at the beginning of the Progressive movement, and upon her return to Arkansas she became involved in several important social reform efforts. She began her endeavors with public education reform, including the consolidation of one-room schools and addressing the transportation needs of rural students. She then turned her attention to the establishment of a juvenile court system and the founding of the Arkansas Girls Industrial School. Some of the other reform efforts she is known for include: the establishment of a College Club for college educated women in Little Rock, the women's suffrage movement, establishment of the African American branch of the Young Women's Christian Association in Little Rock, the creation of a statewide public library system, the Little Rock Urban League, the expansion of disablitiy services in Little Rock, and many other philanthropic endeavors across the state of Arkansas. On the national stage, she is best known for the formation of the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools in 1958. Terry used her social status, network of clubwomen, and the media, specifically newspapers, to reach her goals. Her story explores the role of privileged white society women, who could and did have an impact on these important issues facing the South by agitating for change and working within the the white patriarchal system. While some acted from a sense of obligation, Terry made a very conscious choice to address the ills of society and put her efforts into improving the lives of all Arkansans.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.