In honor of Women’s History Month, we highlight a few female pioneers from the state’s past and present. Whether they’re activists, entertainers, artists or leaders in business, they’ve left an indelible mark on Oklahoma.
Catherine “Kate” Barnard was the first woman to be elected as a state official in Oklahoma, as well as the second woman to be elected to a statewide public office in the United States.
Zelia N. Breaux was an American music instructor and musician who played the trumpet, violin and piano. She organized the first music department at Langston University in Oklahoma and the school’s first orchestra.
Clara Luper was a civic leader, schoolteacher and pioneering leader in the American Civil Rights Movement.
8Betty Ferrol Riddle
Betty Riddle was a member of the elite WASP group – Women Airforce Service Pilots. She worked with the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Confederate Air Force, the Bi-Plane Association, the Antique Aircraft Association, and was a life member of the women’s flying organization known as the 99’s.
7Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma. She applied for admission into the University of Oklahoma law school in order to challenge the state’s segregation laws and to become a lawyer.
Edna Moscelyne Larkin Jasinski was an American ballerina and one of the “Five Moons,” – Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who gained international fame in the 20th century. She later went on to found Tulsa Ballet with her husband, Roman Jasinski.
Marie Tallchief was an American ballerina and was considered America’s first major prima ballerina. She was the first Native American to hold the rank.
Jerrie Cobb was an American aviator. She set three aviation records in her 20s: the 1959 world record for nonstop long-distance flight, the 1959 world light-plane speed record, and a 1960 world altitude record for lightweight aircraft. She was also America’s first female astronaut candidate.
Wanda Jackson is an American singer and songwriter. She was among the first women to have a career in rock and roll, recording a series of 1950s singles that helped give her the nickname “The Queen of Rockabilly.”
Wilma Mankiller was a Native American activist, social worker, community developer and the first woman elected to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Reba McEntire is an American country music singer and actress. Dubbed “the Queen of Country,” she has sold more than 75 million records worldwide.