"Stateswomen: A Centennial History of Arkansas Women Legislators, 1922-2022," UA Press Fayetteville, AR; by Lindsey Armstrong Smith and Stephen A. Smith, 478 pages, 205 images, $29.95 Paperback.
A stunning and remarkable tribute to 100 years of women serving in the Arkansas Legislature has come from the collaborative pens of Lindsey and Stephen Smith, a truly unique, political couple in Northwest Arkansas.
The book commemorates the last century 1922-to-2022 when women served in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. The format achieved treats all the 146 women with more than a commodity of dignity, respect, and admiration for their public service.
Smith & Smith, as a couple, are not strangers to the mechanization and machinations of the Arkansas legislature.
Stephen A. Smith, in 1971, was elected to the state House, as one of the youngest men ever to serve from Madison County. He stayed two terms and left to help Gov. Bill Clinton implement programs all the way to the White House.
His later bride, Lindsey Armstrong Smith, a Louisiana native, was a bombastic and enthusiastic member of the Arkansas House from 2005-2010. Both have taught at the University of Arkansas and their separate and combined political savvy and skills in campaigns, on issues, and in trends of politics, ranks at a supersonic level at best.
There is not a better pair of writers for this book to be found in such a historical and political undertaking, especially on women's issues and free speech.
Former and current House and Senate members, on both sides of the political divide, now or in the past, can find any flaw to this wonder, hefty tome on those who have served.
There is an intriguing forward, penned by the State of Washington's best gift to the political sciences of the last 20 years in Arkansas -- that by Dr. Janine A. Parry -- setting the political landscape for many of these "game changers," mentioned in the book. Aside from quirky political trends and the outright voice of the ballot box, Parry pens a fine forward.
In a 96-page introduction, aided with classic photographs of many of the "glass ceiling breakers," the crux of this fine volume takes shape in telling the role of women in Arkansas politics alongside the "long history of resistance to a full citizenship right for women."
The introduction itself is well worth the price of the book and is certainly thought provoking reading and discussion worthy of book clubs, political gatherings and, yes, education of a younger generation of Arkansas' girls and women. To state it bluntly, the young boys and men of tomorrow certainly need this preamble to their reading requirements for future public service.
Serving as a chronicling of the women who have served, there is no stone left unturned nor is there any slight of any candidate no matter how or when their political career ended.
One rather sad omission, left off the biography for a former state senator (the late Linda Collins-Smith) was of her being murdered, as she contemplated returning to the campaign trail. But Collins-Smith was not in politics at the time of her tragic demise.
Two very eye-opening maps of the Arkansas counties where women have served in the legislature are featured. There are indeed areas of our state where women have blazed a bright political trail and where others have followed.
And indeed, there are dark corridors where resistance to female candidates is too clearly marked as being tough on female politicians.
This book is indeed a precious gift to both the state's history and political sciences.
It is a precious gift to those who served, their families and the legacy etched in this state by some of the hardest working, most earnest and dedicated politicians of the last century.
Bravo to the University of Arkansas Press, the University of Arkansas Diane B. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society and to a fine couple of scholars of the highest rank, Stephen A. and Lindsey Armstrong Smith for this fine addition to the book loving public of Arkansas.
-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.