There are so many, many women who influenced not only our state, but also our country, and some influenced the world. These were women who challenged the status quo, who built business empires, and who understood the value of giving back to their communities.

Produced by Lauren Hughes | Biographies by Nicole Heisick

What a monumental task!.

We knew it would be difficult to winnow our 95 nominations to the top 10. Our own staff cut down to about 30, and then we invited a special group of women who today lead the way in their own respective fields: artists, business owners, educators, a lawyer, a senator, and even a state forester. Together, these indus- try leaders pared down to the top 10 who influenced our state. We present them here in no particular order.

Even our panelists were taken aback and surprised by the achievements of women in our state’s history: “I just can’t believe I didn’t know about her,” was a common refrain. Rhonda Vincent, a noted bluegrass performer from Kirksville, said, “I’ve learned so much from this whole process about the women of Missouri, stuff I never learned in school.” Another surprise: Many of these women are not exactly household names and are never taught in Missouri history classes. Maybe we can help change that.

We didn’t use any formal selection criteria. The only criterion we maintained was that the women must no longer be living. (We figure living women still need to stand the test of time.) But we kept asking ourselves these three questions: Did she leave a lasting impact on the state of Missouri? How significant were her contributions? Did she achieve or accomplish something unique?

Let us honor the dedication, innovation, and perseverance of these historic women who changed our state for the better, and let us never forget the fights they fought, the stones they turned, and the trails they blazed.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Annie Turnbo Malone (1869-1957)

Annie Turnbo Malone thought she had a sure thing: beauty products created specially for black women. Selling them in the booming economy of St. Louis at the turn of the century should have been simple. But mainstream retailers didn’t want to carry products made by a black woman. Annie resorted to going door-to-door in black neighborhoods and demonstrating her products. Sales soared, and her products were a hit.

Born August 9, 1869, to Robert and Isabella Turnbo in Metropolis, Illinois, Malone was the second youngest in a family of 11 children. Her parents died when she was young, leaving her sister in the role of mother to the youngest children, including Malone. She often missed classes because of sickness and never graduated, but when present, she discovered that she had an aptitude for science, especially chemistry. She put her passion for chemistry to practical purpose at the turn of the 20th century, when she created a hair product to straighten African American women’s hair without damaging it. She created an entire line of hair care and beauty products intended specifically for black women.

As her business expanded, Malone searched for a larger geographical market in which to sell her products. She set her sights on St. Louis because the city’s economy was thriving in preparation for the World’s Fair.

She took her line to St. Louis in 1902. Her hard work paid off; after a successful showing at the World’s Fair in 1904, Malone’s company went national.

By the end of World War I, Malone was a millionaire and one of the most successful black women of her time. She established Poro College in 1918 in St. Louis, a training center that offered black women the opportunity to advance their careers in the cosmetology field.

Just as her business was finally taking off, financial tragedy struck. Shortly after a devastating divorce in 1927, Malone moved to Chicago in 1930 for a fresh start, but her company was hit hard by the stock market crash of 1929, followed by a series of lawsuits.

Despite these setbacks, the Poro Company remained in business. The school spread to 32 branches nationwide by the mid-1950s. The company continued to grow and thrive until Malone’s death on May 10, 1957.

Throughout her life, Malone put the needs of the less fortunate above her own. She was generous with money and helped a variety of African-American organizations and charities, including the St. Louis Col- ored Orphans Home where she later served as president. The St. Louis Orphans Home was renamed after her in 1946 and is now the Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Susan Blow (1843-1916)

At a time when most classrooms were dull and undecorated and lacked energy, Susan Blow’s classroom was the polar opposite. She filled it with decorations and taught kids through playing, creating the first-ever kindergarten classroom in Carondelet. With her enormous success, the program grew to 53 classrooms in the area over the next six years and eventually established an early childhood education program still used today.

The first of six children, Blow was born to wealthy businessman Henry Taylor Blow and his wife Minerva Grimsley Blow in St. Louis on June 7, 1843. She lived in her Mississippi riverfront home until she was six, when her father decided to move the family to the French settlement of Carondelet after a great fire and cholera epidemic swept through the city.

Because of her father’s wealth, Blow grew up in a comfortable lifestyle and received a top-notch education. She attended a private school in New Orleans, had lessons with governesses at home, and left for private school in New York at 16. She studied there for several years before the school shut down in 1861 because of the Civil War.

During the Civil War, Blow moved back to her parents’ home in Missouri, where she learned on her own using the family library. Blow loved learning and wouldn’t let anything stop her from studying.

After the Civil War, Blow’s father was appointed as ambassador of Brazil. Blow went with him and worked as his secretary for 15 months. From there she traveled to Germany, and this move ultimately shaped what would become her life’s work.

There, she watched children learn important language, math, and science skills by playing with objects such as balls and blocks in kindergarten classrooms. Blow was inspired to bring this type of educational instruction to America. When she returned to the United States, Blow dedicated herself to learning everything she could about teaching kindergarten. She studied, brainstormed ideas, and talked with educators. Her father asked Dr. William Torrey Harris, the superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools, to open an experimental kindergarten, which Blow offered to direct if provided with a room and teacher.

In September 1873, Blow opened the first public kindergarten at the Des Peres School in Carondelet. Blow’s classroom stood apart because it was bright and cheerfully decorated. It was filled with low tables and benches, plants, books, and toys, making it the perfect learning environment for young children. Students learned about colors, shapes, and fractions, as well as the importance of keeping themselves clean, eating well, and getting regular exercise.

Based on the success of her first classroom, public schools in St. Louis and around the country started kindergarten classrooms using Blow’s classroom as a model. By 1879, there were 53 kindergarten rooms in the St. Louis school system.

Blow toured the country, giving lectures on education until three weeks before her death on March 26, 1916. Her model for kindergarten education is still used today.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Gerty Cori (1896-1957)

Although born in Prague, Gerty Cori is considered the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in medicine, and the third woman overall to be honored with this distinction. With such a glowing resume, one would have expected job offers to pour in. Despite all her accomplishments, as a woman in her time, Cori was barely able to find a research job and started out with a salary one-tenth of what her husband made. But she found her way onto the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, where she continued her research from 1931 until her death in 1957.

Born August 15, 1886, Cori grew up in Prague before passing her university entrance exam in 1914. She went on to study at the Medical School of the German University of Prague where she received a Doctor- ate in Medicine in 1920. After graduation, she spent two years working at the Carolinen Children’s Hospital before she moved to America.

Married in 1920, both Cori and her husband Carl worked together in most of their research projects. Their first joint paper was on an immunological study of the complement of human serum. Their joint research continued to grow, sparked by a mutual interest in preclinical sciences. Aside from personal studies, the Coris were a source of inspiration to their colleagues. They contributed many articles to the Journal of Biological Chemistry and other scientific periodicals.

When they moved to Buffalo, New York, to pursue medical research at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases (now the Roswell Park Cancer Institute), they were discouraged from working together—but continued to do so anyway. They were particularly interested in how glucose is metabolized in the human body and in the hormones that regulate this process, publishing 50 papers on the subject. On top of these 50 papers, Cori published 11 papers on her own.

In 1929, they proposed the “Cori cycle,” which won them the Nobel Prize in 1947 for discovering how glycogen is broken down into sugar and then turned back into glycogen. Because she and her husband both became nationalized U.S. citizens in 1928, Cori was considered the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in medicine.

The “Cori cycle” explains the movement of energy within the body. Muscle glycogen transforms into sugar (or glucose) to power physical activity. But some of the sugar stays on as lactic acid for later use. The discovery was useful for the treatment of diabetes and was the first time the cycle of carbohydrates in the human body was fully understood and explained.

After publishing their work, the Coris left New York to explore Carl’s many job offers. (None was offered to Gerty.) In 1931, the couple decided to move to St. Louis so Carl could work as the chair of the pharmacology department at Washington University School of Medicine; Gerty was offered a position as a research assistant. She was promoted to full professor in 1946, a year before being awarded the Nobel Prize. Gerty worked for the university until her death on October 26, 1957.

Cori was a member of the American Society of Biological Chemists, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2008, Cori was honored by being featured on a stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. Her discoveries improved later researchers’ understanding of human metabolism.

Photo Courtesy of William Woods University

Helen  Stephens (1918-1994)

Growing up the tall girl with long legs in Fulton, Helen Stephens found her calling as a runner years before schools had athletic programs for girls. After she won two gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, she became actively involved in athletics, becoming the first woman to create, own, and manage her own semi-professional basketball team. She pushed herself to her full potential as an athlete, despite a lack of support, making her an inspiration to fellow female athletes and school athletic departments alike.

Born February 3, 1918, Stephens spent her childhood on her family’s farm near Fulton, where she worked hard but played hard, too, running, jumping, climbing. Stephens has said she was in cardio training since her childhood—she just didn’t realize it at the time. Her daily chores on the farm built up her strength, lung capacity, and endurance.

Neither the middle school nor the high school she attended in Fulton had athletic programs for girls. However, her high school physical education teacher, Coach W. Burton Moore, knew how to train athletes for track and field events. Once he saw how fast Stephens could run, he became her personal coach and trainer, teaching her the basic forms of running on a road near the high school. Stephens also trained on her own with her brother.

At age 15, Stephens tied the world record for running the 50-meter dash by finishing in 5.8 seconds. On March 22, 1935, Coach Moore took Stephens to St. Louis for her first official race. She beat Stella Walsh, the gold medalist from the 1932 Olympics, in the 50-meter dash. She ran the dash in 6.6 seconds, setting a new indoor record on a dirt track. This performance earned Stephens several nicknames, such as “The Missouri Express” and “The Fulton Flash.”

Only 18, Stephens set the Olympic world record for the 100-meter event at 11.5 seconds at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Her record held strong for the next 24 years until Wilma Rudolph eventu- ally topped it in the 1960 Olympics. Stephens won a second gold medal in Berlin’s Olympics in the 400-meter relay, where she served as the anchor of the team and set another world record time of 46.9 seconds.

After the Olympic games, Stephens came home to Fulton where she graduated from William Woods College. She played for the All American Red Heads basketball team. After her personal athletic career ended, she went on to become the first woman to create, own, and manage her own semi-professional basketball team. She called her team the Helen Stephens Olympics Co-Eds. They played from 1938 until 1940, when World War II cut their run short. They picked up again after the war and competed from 1946 to 1952.

Stephens was a well-rounded athlete and enjoyed many sports, including bowling, golf, and swimming. Stephens competed in several Senior Olympics and clocked the fastest speeds and longest distances in her age category. When she was 68, Stephens ran the 100-meter dash in 16.4 seconds, only four seconds slower than her time 50 years earlier. She died January 17, 1994.

Stephens was asked to carry the torch for the first nine Show-Me State Games in Columbia, as well as the Senior Olympic games. She is recognized in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, United States Track and Field Hall of Fame, and Women’s Hall of Fame. The strides she made paved the way for female athletes to come.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Annie White Baxter (1864-1944)

Almost 30 years before women received the right to vote, Annie White Baxter shocked the community when she was nominated as Jasper County clerk. Even more shocking, Baxter was elected, making her the first woman in the United States to ever be elected to the office of county clerk.

Baxter was born on March 2, 1864, in Pennsylvania and moved at a young age to Missouri with her par- ents, growing up in Carthage and Joplin. As a student at Carthage High School, Baxter developed a reputation as the most outspoken, aggressive, and commanding person in her class. After graduation, she found a job at the Jasper County Courthouse where she eventually became the chief deputy county clerk.

In 1890, her stance as a strong proponent for an efficiently run county government earned her a Democratic nomination for Jasper County clerk. With her nomination came great public debate on whether or not she should be allowed to run. Women did not have the right to vote at the time. In the end, Baxter ran for office and won the election by more than 400 votes.

Upset with defeat, her opponent, Julius Fischer, challenged her victory, saying that votes for her were not legal because she was a woman. The dispute went to the Greene County Circuit Court, where it was de- termined that her victory was legitimate. In the ruling, the court also ordered Fischer to pay Baxter’s legal fees.

As county clerk, Baxter dedicated herself to improving clerical effi ciency in county practices. She was also one of the county officials involved in planning and overseeing construction of a new courthouse to replace the one that was badly damaged during Confederate occupation. The courthouse, completed in 1895, is still used as the courthouse today and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Baxter’s hard work and dedication were recognized at the time by Missouri Gov. David R. Francis, who named her an honorary colonel on his staff, earning her the nickname of “Colonel Baxter.”

After her term as county clerk ended, Baxter moved to St. Louis, then to Jefferson City where she was hired as land registrar, working under Secretary of State Cornelius Roach from 1908 to 1916. From there, she went on to be financial secretary to the Missouri Constitutional Convention.

Baxter took a brief vacation from her political career when she served as secretary to James T. Quarles, the dean of the University of Missouri’s School of Fine Arts. Her stint in the educational field was short lived. She returned to Jefferson City to continue her interest in politics and later served as a delegate in the 1936 Democratic State Convention in Joplin.

Baxter remained active in Democratic Party politics until she died on June 28, 1944, leaving behind a legacy of a dedicated civil servant, groundbreaking player in politics, and forerunner in the fight for women’s rights and equality. She paved the way for the female politicians of today, from vice-presidential candidates to presidential primary nominations.

Although ill on crutches, Froman returned to Europe in 1945 to entertain troops. She spent three months performing for 30,000 service members.
Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Jane Froman (1907-1980)

A nationally known performer from University City, Ellen “Jane” Froman overcame many obstacles, such as stuttering and a debilitating plane crash, to become one of the most beloved entertainers of her time. Throughout her 30-year career, the singer/actress performed on stage, radio, and television. She earned three separate stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not only was Froman a noted entertainer, she used her life’s struggles as inspiration for charitable endeavors, working with the Missouri Mental Health Association as well as establishing the Jane Froman Music Camp for young entertainers.

Froman was born on November 10, 1907, in University City. Shortly after her parents’ separation, she developed a stutter that followed her throughout her life, except when she sang.

In 1919, Froman and her mother moved to Columbia, where her mother, a former pianist, taught music at Christian College (now Columbia College) and then at Stephens College. Jane graduated from Christian College and spent a short time studying at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism before moving to Ohio to study voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music from 1928 to 1930. Froman began singing on the radio and doing commercials at the WLW radio studios.

It was there she met Don Ross, a staff singer and former vaudeville performer who became her manager and later her husband. The couple moved to New York City in 1933, and Froman’s career took off. She went to Hollywood several times throughout the ’30s to film movies such as Stars Over Broadway and Radio City Revels, but her inability to overcome her stutter made her acting career short-lived. Her singing, however, was always in high demand. She spent the decade singing on the radio, in nightclubs, and on Broadway. She was voted the nation’s top female performer in 1937 and again in 1939. 

In 1943, tragedy struck. One of the first performers to volunteer to entertain troops overseas, Froman was on her way to her first United Service Organizations show in Europe when the flight she was on crashed into the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of only 15 survivors on the flight of 38 passengers, Froman sustained many injuries, including a large gash below her knee that nearly severed her left leg, a severe fracture of her right leg, broken ribs, and multiple fractures to her right arm. Although still on crutches, Froman returned to Europe in 1945 to entertain troops. She spent three months performing for 30,000 servicemen.

Froman returned to New York City where she continued to perform despite undergoing frequent surgeries. Her success had driven a wedge between Froman and Ross, and one month after their divorce in February 1948, Froman married John Burn, the pilot who was in the same accident and who had saved her life. The new couple struggled as Froman dealt with her injuries and the pressure to perform, and they divorced in 1955. She was also treated for depression, and her care ultimately served as inspiration for her work with the Missouri Mental Health Association.

Froman kept singing and making television appearances until she retired from show business and returned home to Columbia in 1961. There she became reacquainted with a former college friend, Rowland H. Smith, and the two married in 1962.

Throughout her career, Froman was involved in charity work, and her retirement from show business gave her a chance to dedicate more time to the cause. She worked with Easter Seals and the Missouri Mental Health Association, and she sang in a 1969 Christmas program at Arrow Rock benefiting the Jane Froman Music Camp, a project started to help young people develop their musical talent. Froman died April 22, 1980.

Froman demonstrated having courage and dedication is more important than any obstacle. Her courage in the face of her disability serves as a model for others not to be afraid or ashamed, but rather be who they are and show that they are not going to let their disabilities define them.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

 Edna Gellhorn (1878-1970)

Inspired by her activist mother and very supportive husband, Edna Gellhorn lived in an environment where she believed anyone had the power to make a difference. If she saw something that needed changing, she fought to change it. Gellhorn was an activist and civic leader and was involved in various organizations and causes in St. Louis. She is especially known for her work with the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Gellhorn was born in St. Louis on December 18, 1878. In her early stages as an activist and reformist, she worked for the passage of clean water and pure-milk legislation, the first of many crusades challenging the status quo. She and her husband George worked to reduce infant mortality through their campaign to ensure a safe milk supply for babies and a provision for free medical clinics. During World War I, Gellhorn served as regional director of the food rationing programs.

In 1910, she finally found her true cause: fighting for women’s right to vote, saying she was “inspired by the message that women had something to contribute.” From 1910 until 1919 when women secured the right to vote, Gellhorn worked with state and local Equal Suffrage Leagues. She spent her time coming up with new ways to show people that without the right to vote, women weren’t even second-class citizens. She helped organize the Walkless-Talkless Parade, which took place during the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis in 1916. Thousands of women wearing white dresses and yellow sashes carried parasols, lined the streets, and stared down the male delegates as they walked from their hotel.

Gellhorn knew that just protesting in this one region wasn’t enough, and she sought a way to further her cause. She toured the northern half of the state by riding freight trains to different towns and spreading her message to anyone she met.

After women received the right to vote, Gellhorn traveled the state in the caboose of a milk train to hold classes for first-time voters. She helped form the National League of Women Voters and served as the league’s first vice president. She also founded and was president of the St. Louis League of Women Voters and Missouri League of Women Voters, where she served as the first president. She served three times as president of the St. Louis League and also on the national board. In the 1930s, Gellhorn led the League’s effort to institute the merit system in Missouri government hiring. Gellhorn also led the league to become one of the first racially integrated civic groups in St. Louis.

Gellhorn lobbied for causes such as legislation on child welfare, women’s property rights, and joint guardianship of children. She received an honorary degree from Lindenwood College in 1956 and another from Washington University in 1964. In 1957, the St. Louis Globe Democrat named her a Woman of Achievement. She died on September 24, 1970.

Gellhorn knew how important equal rights were, and her tireless campaign helped women earn many basic rights. Her efforts showed others the importance of one person in the fight for equality, as well as the importance of spreading political messages for all to hear.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum

 Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

A pioneer family’s struggles and triumphs as they move from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to Indian Territory near Independence, Kansas, is one of the best known children’s stories since the series first started in 1932. The Little House on the Prairie series adorns the shelves of libraries, bookstores, and

children’s bedrooms everywhere. Despite her enormous success, Laura Ingalls Wilder kept her life simple, as it had been throughout her childhood in the Missouri Ozarks—the inspiration for her famous series.

Born February 7, 1867, Wilder’s childhood served as inspiration for her future career as a writer. Around the age of 16, Wilder accepted her first teaching job. She taught three terms in one-room schools, when she was not at school herself. Her career as a teacher ended when she married Almanzo Wilder on August 25, 1885. The first few years of their marriage were hard, with Almanzo battling a life-threatening bout of diphtheria and the couple losing their newborn son. They moved around a lot before finally settling on Missouri.

In 1894, Wilder’s family packed its belongings in a wagon and headed to the Missouri Ozarks, which they had learned about from advertising brochures and friends. They used their life’s savings to make a down payment on a piece of undeveloped property just east of Mansfield. On their 40-acre farm, they produced lumber, dairy, apples, strawberries, chickens, and other products. Work on the farm was rough, and profits were slow. Initially, the only income the farm brought was from wagon loads of firewood her husband sold in town. It took the apple trees seven years to bear fruit.

Barely able to make a living from the farm, the Wilders moved to the town of Mansfield, where they began renting a home in the late 1890s. There, her husband found work as an oil salesman and general delivery man, while Wilder took in boarders and served meals to local railroad workers.

It was around this time that Laura’s parents bought the deed to the house that Laura and Almanzo were renting in town and gave it to the couple as a gift. Throughout time, the couple obtained nearly 200 acres and were able to sell the house and land in town, using the money to move back to the farm outside of Mansfield.

With the farmhouse completed in 1912, Wilder was able to turn her attention to her other interests, such as writing. Inspired by her daughter Rose Wilder Lane’s developing writing career, Wilder submitted an article to the Missouri Ruralist in 1911, which eventually led to a permanent position as a columnist and editor. In her column “As a Farm Woman Thinks,” Wilder wrote about home and family, about current events such as World War I, and about her daughter’s travels. She tracked women’s progress as their rights grew in this era.

In 1930, Wilder asked her daughter for an opinion about a book she had been working on: a biographical manuscript about her pioneering childhood. The motivation for writing this book, later titled Little House

in the Big Woods, was prompted by memories of her childhood, which involved the death of her mother and sister, and the possibility of earning some income. In 1932, Little House in the Big Woods became her first published work.

By the time she finished her last one, These Happy Golden Years, 11 years later, she had become one of America’s best-loved children’s book writers. Her books went on to become the inspiration for a popular television show based on the series, Little House on the Prairie.

Wilder’s work has been brightening the lives of children for generations. Decades after her first works were published, they still continue to be among the most beloved children’s books.

Photo Courtesy of The State Historical Society

Nell Donnelly Rd (1889-1991)

Nell Donnelly Reed didn’t like wearing drab, dull house dresses. What woman would? Instead of complaining or doing nothing about it, she decided to make a change. Reed began making and selling stylish dresses in 1916 to replace plain and simple dresses, and by the 1940s, her Kansas City-based clothing company was one of the largest of its kind in the world. She created her label, Nelly Don, with the hopes of challenging the idea that it was impossible to create stylish clothing that could sell to more than just privileged women. Reed was also an early champion of employee benefits, offering some health benefits and scholarships for children of employees.

Reed was born on March 6, 1889, and grew up in Parsons, Kansas. She moved to Kansas City, Missouri, after marrying Paul Donnelly. Reed was dissatisfied with the bland style of ordinary house dresses and created more stylish attire for herself. These dresses attracted a great deal of positive attention from fellow housewives, and Reed decided that all women should have the choice to wear more stylish clothes.

In 1916, she opened a small factory in downtown Kansas City for less than $1,500. She sold her first dresses for $1 each, a high price compared to the standard 67 cents for regular house dresses. Reed drew inspiration for her clothing line from her ideal dress, believing that other housewives would feel the same way. It wasn’t always about dressing to impress others, but about each housewife finding her individual style and expressing herself.

Her company experienced rapid growth in the 1930s. By 1935, she had a $3.5 million business with 1,000 employees. As an astute businesswoman, Reed successfully led her company through depressions, recessions, wars, and regulatory battles with the federal government.

In 1935, Fortune magazine described her as one of the most successful businesswomen in the United States. She was one of the first business leaders in her city to offer paid group hospitalization for employees. To their children, she gave scholarships to help pay for tuition to local colleges. For these innovations, Reed was considered ahead of her time. Her business, the Donnelly Garment Company, helped turn Kansas City into a thriving ready-to-wear clothing manufacturing center.

Reed sold her company in 1956, and it became known as Nelly Don Inc. After her retirement, Reed stayed involved in business and civic affairs in Kansas City, serving on the school board as well as numerous social and cultural institutions, including the Kansas City Art Institute and the Midwest Research Institute. Reed died on September 8, 1991.

As a pioneer in women’s ready-to-wear clothing in the 1920s and ’30s, Reed impacted the fashion world, challenging what was available and how improvements could be made, in both the fashion industry and labor relations.

Photo Courtesy of the State Historical Society

Louise  anley (1883-1954)

Louise Stanley felt the school system was lacking something: basic home management skills such as nutrition, sewing, cooking, and child development. So Stanley brought her knowledge of food nutrition and home economics to the University of Missouri in Columbia and developed the home economics program seen in schools today, now frequently called family and consumer sciences. Thanks to her, these skills are still staples of a high school education.

Stanley’s educational background is vast. Born in Tennessee on June 8, 1883, she graduated from Peabody College in 1903 with a Bachelor of Science, the University of Chicago in 1905 with a Bachelor of Education, Columbia University in 1907 with a Master of Arts, and Yale University in 1911 with a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

She worked as a home economics instructor at the University of Missouri from 1907 to 1911 and as pro- fessor and chairwoman of the home economics department from 1911 to 1923.

In 1923, the United States Department of Agriculture appointed Stanley as the chief of the National Bureau of Home Economics. While serving in this role, she directed the first national farm housing survey, which contributed to the establishment of programs to improve rural living.

Throughout her life, Stanley was a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council. She was appointed to the American Standards Association, making her the first woman to hold an official USDA position. A National Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee, Stanley Hall at MU was named for her.

Thanks to Stanley, students can now graduate with a more well-rounded degree and broader skill set that carries over into their lives after school.



Wife to the founder of St. Louis, Marie Therese Bourgeois Chouteau opened her home to Lewis and Clark, who were waiting for the winter to end before they embarked on their famous expedition.

In 1931, St. Louis native Irma Rombauer published the Joy of Cooking, one of the world’s most-published cookbooks.

Born in Elkton in Hickory county in 1904, Helen Gould Beck became known as the famous dancer Sally Rand. She invented a titillating dance using two large ostrich plumes to cover her body.

Emma Knell was one of the first women in the state licensed as an embalmer in 1899.

At a time when smiling was considered frivolous by photographers and stiff subjects were the norm, Jean Tomlinson Frazer encouraged her subjects to smile. In the early 1900s, the “Jean Smile” took over and became a trend that never died.

In 1913, well-known illustrator Rose O’Neill created the Kewpie doll now used today as Columbia Hickman High School’s mascot.

As the first female mayor in Missouri, Mayme Ousley was elected in 1921, just two years after women got the right to vote. She cleaned up the streets of St. James and placed signs at the edge of town that quipped, “Drive slow and see our beautiful city; drive fast and see our jail.”

Nelle Peters was a Kansas City architect at a time when few women were. She designed the Kansas City Ambassador Hotel in 1924, along with many other buildings still standing in Kansas City. 

Born a slave in Jackson County, Cathay Williams was the only known female Buffalo soldier during the Civil War. She masqueraded as a man and enlisted in the 38th Infantry, Company A, as William Cathay.

Beginning in 1929 on a radio show with her husband, Jane Ace confused similar-sounding words for comic effect. “Janeacesisms” included these: “It’s our clowning achievement,” “Say it in words of one cylinder,” and “We’re all cremated equal.”


MEET THE SELECTION PANEL (note these panelist held these titles in February 2012)

Fifteen women at the top of their fields met to choose theTop 10.

Article originally published in the February 2012 issue of Missouri Life.