Have you ever heard of the Owens sisters? How about Lucile Bluford, a civil rights activist and well-respected editor and publisher of an important African-American newspaper? What about Phoebe Couzins, the first female US marshal, and one of the first female lawyers? It’s not surprising that you may not have heard of these women in history class, but they’re fascinating! In addition to being important female figures, these women all have something else in common: they’re all from Missouri!
As you (hopefully) know, March is Women’s History Month. This year’s theme celebrates women of character, courage and commitment, and list of 2014 honorees can be found here. Women across the world have had a powerful, but often over-looked, impact on human history, and that influence extends to women’s contributions in our own state.
Back to the Owens sisters, three trailblazers from St. Joseph, Missouri. These sisters all had highly successful careers, which was very uncommon for women in the US in the late 1800s. The work of Mary Alicia Owen, the oldest sister who had the most prominent career, is documented in the book “The Life of Folklorist, Mary Alicia Owens” by local author Greg Olson. Mary was the most famous female folklorist of her time, and her ethnographic writings documented Ozark Gypsies, Voodoo Priests and other local legends.
Luella, the middle sister, was a geologist who wrote a book about Missouri caves, which was the only resource on the subject to exist for 50 years. The youngest, Juliette, was an artist who documented Missouri wildlife through painting and drawing. She also was a conservationist and animal rights activist in the early phases of this movement. Learn more about these sisters in the book “Daring to Be Different: Missouri’s Remarkable Owen Sisters.”
DBRL has more resources on the subject of women’s history in Missouri, including online databases and books like “In Her Place: A Guide to St. Louis Women’s History” and “Women in Missouri History,” among others. The DBRL website will also direct you to more resources on women’s history, including book lists of influential women, a list of upcoming local events that celebrate women’s history and other databases and resources on this subject. Happy Women’s History Month!