News & Events

Materials on the 40th Anniversary of the Women's Emergency Committee Donated to the Butler Center

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and its Butler Center for Arkansas Studies have received a donation of materials related to three momentous occasions in Arkansas history: the 40th anniversary of the Women's Emergency Committee (WEC), the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School and the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The collection was given by Skip Rutherford, Dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and his son Blake Rutherford, Director of Public Communications at Stone Ward, a Little Rock advertising agency. The donated materials include sets of planning notes and publicity materials from the three events.

Skip Rutherford, a former president of the Little Rock School Board, played an integral part in organizing the 40th anniversary of the WEC and the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Blake Rutherford, a 1996 Central graduate, was on the city commission that helped planed the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. The collection includes information about the members of the WEC.

According to the Butler Center's Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) was formed on September 12, 1958, to combat Governor Orval Faubus's closing of the Little Rock public high schools in the year after the crisis surrounding the desegregation of Central High. The WEC became the first organization that publicly supported reopening the schools under the district's desegregation plan. It remained active until 1963.

Forty-eight women met to form the group in September 1958 in the home of Adolphine Fletcher Terry. The membership list was kept secret out of concerns about the possibility of reprisals against the women or their husbands and families. Leaders of the group received threatening messages from opponents of school desegregation.

"The 1997 40th anniversary commemoration at Little Rock Central High School began a process which led to the Little Rock Central National Historic Site, the complete renovation of the school and ultimately the 50th anniversary events. The 1998 40th anniversary commemoration of the Women's Emergency Committee for the first time paid deserving tribute to a group of courageous and remarkable women," said Skip Rutherford. "We hope these materials will provide further insight into how these events took place."

Information on the Arkansas Studies Institute

The materials will be housed in the manuscript repository of the newly opened Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) in downtown Little Rock's River Market District. The Arkansas Studies Institute (ASI) is a joint project of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). The Institute is the state's largest free-standing facility dedicated to the study of Arkansas. Here students, scholars, and anyone interested in Arkansas history can gather to learn more about the people, places, and events that shaped the state's past and guide its future.