Women in the Senate
Senator Cecile Bledsoe
Arkansas Senate: 2009-2022 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers was first elected to the legislature in 1998 and served for six years in the House of Representatives. In 2008 she was elected to the Senate and became a member of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. She became its chair in 2013
She served on the Health Reform Legislative Task Force that recommended structural changes to the Arkansas Medicaid system, and she has been Senate co-chair of the Legislative Council.
Her legislative priorities included bills that changed the scope of practice of physicians, nurses, therapists and other medical providers.
Senator Bledsoe was the lead sponsor of the Telemedicine Act of 2015, as well as legislation creating a diabetes action plan for Arkansas.
Senator Bledsoe was a frequent co-sponsor of pro-life bills, as well as tax cut measures. She was con-sponsor of legislation that cut income taxes by $100 million a year for middle class families. It also lowers capital gains taxes.
Senator Bledsoe sponsored the act that allows service stations to sell electricity for charging of battery-operated vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. This removed potential obstacles to retail service stations that charge electric vehicles for a fee.
She sponsored Act 904 of 2011, which allowed the multi-year registration of personal use vehicles. For the first time, this gave citizens in Arkansas the ability to register their personal vehicles for up to three years in advance.
Senator Bledsoe is from Brunswick, Georgia, and has lived in Rogers for 40 years, with her husband of 46 years, Dr. Jim Bledsoe. They have three children and 10 grandchildren.
Senator Bledsoe represented the eastern part of Benton County, including Rogers, Pea Ridge, Garfield and Avoca.
Senator Joyce Elliott
Arkansas Senate: 2009–2022 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Joyce Elliott represented Little Rock in the Arkansas legislature for 20 years, 14 of them in the Senate and six in the House of Representatives.
For 30 years Elliott taught high school juniors and seniors Advanced Placement and standard courses. She has taught in Florida, Minnesota and Texas.
In 2004 Senator Elliott left the classroom and began working for the College Board, focusing on expanding access to AP classes for students currently underrepresented: African-American, Latino, rural and low-income students.
Senator Elliott was born in Willisville, where she graduated from high school. She earned an undergraduate degree in English and speech from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia in 1973 and a graduate degree in English from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia in 1981.
As a legislator, Senator Elliott has been vice chair of the Senate Education Committee, a member of the Insurance and Commerce Committee, the Joint Committee on Retirement and Social Security Systems, the Legislative Council, the Joint Auditing Committee and the Joint Budget Committee.
Senator Elliott has been active with the Democratic Party at the local, state and national level, having served as first vice chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Resolution Committee. Twice she ran for Congress from the Second District of central Arkansas.
Senator Linda Collins-Smith
Arkansas Senate: 2015–2018 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Linda Collins-Smith represented District 19 from 2015 through 2018. She was vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during her four years in the Senate.
She served two years in the House of Representatives, in 2011 and 2012.
Senator Collins-Smith, a native of Pocahontas, was a businesswoman and entrepreneur, with business experience in real estate and lodging. She was a past president of the Arkansas Lodging Association.
She was a lifetime member of the NRA and founding member of the Friends of the NRA in Hardy. She served on the Arkansas Ethics Commission and the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Council. She was proud to represent the values of the Ozark Mountains and rural Arkansas.
In 2015, she was appointed to serve as Arkansas State Director for the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), which is the nation's oldest organization addressing the needs of elected women at all levels of government.
Senator Collins-Smith had two children. She was a member of the Sutton Free Will Baptist Church in Pocahontas. Her untimely death in June of 2019 was a shock to her family, her friends and her colleagues.
Senator Mary Anne Salmon
Arkansas Senate: 2003-2012 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Mary Anne Salmon represented North Little Rock in the Arkansas Senate for 10 years, from 2003 through 2012. Previously, she served four years in the House of Representatives, from 1999 through 2002.
In the 88th General Assembly she was Senate co-chair of the Legislative Council. She was influential in the writing of enabling legislation for the Arkansas lottery, which funds college scholarships.
Senator Salmon served then-Governor Bill Clinton as the state director for his presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996. During the 1980s she was appointed the staff coordinator of Appointments to State Boards and Commissions by Governor Clinton. She is also a former commissioner of the Lakewood Improvement District in North Little Rock.
Senator Salmon was very active in community affairs, serving on the boards of the Metro
YMCA, Baptist Health Systems, Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy (CARTI) Foundation and Centennial Bank Board of Trustees.
She is a former chairman of the Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees and member of the Arkansas Tech Foundation Board, as well as the Pulaski Technical College Foundation Board. Additionally, she has been a member of the North Little Rock, Maumelle and Sherwood chambers of commerce.
Senator Salmon has received numerous community and service awards. Most recently she was named a Pulaski Technical College Business of Art Honoree. In 2008, she was named Outstanding Woman Politician of the Year by AY Magazine.
In 2003, she was named Senator of the Year by the Arkansas Circuit Judges Association, and she was named Senator of the Year by the Arkansas Police Chiefs Association in 2003 and 2005. She has been honored by the Metro YMCA board with the Johnny Heflin Humanitarian of the Year Award and by United Cerebral Palsy with the Reason to Believe Award.
She was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Distinction at Arkansas Tech University, where the Student Government Room is named in her honor.
A native of Fort Smith, Senator Salmon was raised in Waldron and graduated from Arkansas Tech University. She is a former business owner and a retired music teacher from the Pulaski County Special School District.
She and her husband, Don, have two adult daughters and four grandchildren and are members of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.
Senator Sue Madison
Arkansas Senate: 2003-2012 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Sue Madison represented Fayetteville in the Arkansas Senate for 10 years, from 2003 through 2012. Previously, she had been a member of the House of Representatives for six years, from 1995 through 1998, and a Justice of the Peace in Washington County for four years, from 1991 through 1994.
She chaired the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee during the 88th General Assembly. She chaired the Senate Committee on City, County and Local Affairs during the 87th General Assembly. She was vice chair of the Interim Committee on Children and Youth during the 86th General Assembly.
She was born in Uchitomori, Okinawa, which was occupied by the U.S. military. Her parents were Roy and Lyda Wood of Amite, Louisiana in Tangipahoa Parish. She is the granddaughter of the late Fred and Camille Yates of the San Pedro Community in Washington Parish and the late Eustace and Ada Lee Wood of the Bonner Creek Community in Washington Parish.
She is married to Bernard Madison, professor of mathematics at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She graduated from Lakes High School near Fort Lewis, Washington where her father commanded a howitzer battalion as an Army Lieutenant Colonel.
Madison earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree, both in Botany, and both from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Madison and her husband lived in Baton Rouge for twelve years before moving to Arkansas.
After leaving the House of Representatives, she worked briefly in Washington, D.C., for Congressman Mike Ross as a Legislative Correspondent. Madison is a Democrat.
Her occupation is Property Investor and Manager.
Her Senate District in Washington County included Fayetteville, West Fork, Elkins, Greenland, and Farmington.
Senator Ruth Whitaker
Arkansas Senate: 2001-2012 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Ruth Whitaker of Cedarville was a political activist and political consultant who graduated from Hendrix College.
Senator Whitaker won a special election in 2000 and served through 2012, she ranked number one in seniority in the Arkansas Senate and served as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
In the Senate, she represented Crawford County and parts of Franklin and Washington Counties.
Before her election to the Senate she was a city alderman in Cedarville and an AETN Commissioner. She was married to Dr. T.J. Whitaker. They had two children.
In 2003, she was a founding member of the Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, which is concerned with issues relating to hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.
Senator Whitaker supported legislation to fund the Game and Fish Commission, penalize animal cruelty, remove the sales tax from groceries, promote the Arkansas beef and wine growing industries and allow grandparents visitation regardless of parental custody.
She was a former PTA president, and activist for the Arkansas Heart Association, March of Dimes and organizations supporting cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.
Senator Whitaker was active in the Republican Party. She was a member of the Arkansas Federation of Republican Women and past president of the Women's Auxiliary to the American Medical Association of Sebastian County. She was elected secretary of the Arkansas State Republican Party from 1992-1994 and held other appointments in the state party, including vice-chairman and parliamentarian.
She was a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Van Buren Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Main Street USA, Van Buren. Senator Whitaker was a member of Alden Kindred of America tracing her lineage back to the first settlers aboard the Mayflower.
Senator Whitaker earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway. She was married to Dr. T.J. Whitaker. She had a daughter, one son and two grandchildren.
She was born December 13, 1936 in Blytheville, Arkansas, and died in 2014 at the age of 77. She was a Presbyterian.
Senator Barbara Horn
Arkansas Senate: 2001-2010 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Barbara Horn served in the Senate for 10 years, from 2001 through 2010. In the 87th General Assembly she chaired the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee.
Previously, she served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1993 through 2000. She filled the unexpired term of her late husband, Hoye Horn.
Senator Horn is a businesswoman who ran the Horn Insurance Agency of Ashdown. She is a Past President of Little River Chamber of Commerce.
In recognition of her work for the citizens of southwest Arkansas, a portion of Highway 41 in and near Foreman was named after Senator Horn.
In 2009, more than 200 people celebrated the grand opening of the Barbara Horn Civic Center at the Little River campus of Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas. She has been an active supporter of the Little River campus since it opened in 1996.
In 2019, she was bestowed the rank of UA Cossatot Board Member Emeritus. Senator Horn served as a member of the UA Cossatot Board of Visitors for the previous 17 years, during which time she was largely responsible for acquiring the necessary funding to secure the current location of UA Cossatot’s Ashdown campus.
The board acknowledged that Senator Horn had gone above and beyond the normal call of duty to serve as a long-time board member of UA Cossatot. Board members expressed their appreciation for her dedicated service and her continued friendship.
She is a native of Mountain Pine, in Garland County.
Her late husband, Hoye Horn, was Little River County Judge, Korean War veteran and a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. They have three children.
Senator Horn's legislative priorities included support for public education, access to affordable health care and a tax policy to promote economic development and job creation. She sponsored or co-sponsored legislation to:
- bring about tort reform in Arkansas,
- adequately fund the Red River Compact Commission,
- create graduate nursing programs,
- financially support public libraries and museums,
- allow consumers greater choices in buying prescription drugs,
- open health insurance networks to more physicians, clinics, pharmacies and hospitals, thus expanding access to medical care,
- revise the Arkansas Anatomical Gift Act to keep up with modern technical procedures and insure that organ donors and organ recipients are matched,
- revise nursing home regulations
- adequately fund for growth at the University of Arkansas Cossatot.
- to provide immunity to health care providers who act as Good Samaritans in emergency situations.
Senator Sharon Trusty
Arkansas Senate: November 2000–September 2009 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Sharon Trusty, the president and owner of Trusty and Associates, Inc., represented Russellville and parts of Pope and Logan Counties in the Arkansas Senate from 2000 to 2009.
A native of Oregania, Ohio, she has three daughters. She is married to Fritz Kronberger. She was active in the Arkansas Republican Party and in 1984 was co-chair of the Arkansas Republican Party.
She was chairman of a Senate panel that raised money for an artist to sculpt a bust of former Lieutenant Governor Winthrop “Win” Rockfeller, who died in 2006, which resides at the Arkansas State Capitol.
After resigning from the Senate, she was appointed to the state Ethics Commission and in 2017 was elected by the Commission to be vice chair.
She was a Charter Member of the Arkansas Workforce Education Board, a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, a member of the Governor’s Next Step Foundation and a Member of St. Mary's Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees, a member of the Russellville Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Directors, Simmons First Bank.
Previous to her senate career in 1984 she was co-chair of the Arkansas Republican Party and became an author. Her book, “Widowed: Beginning Again Personally and Financially” was published in 1999.
During her Senate career she served as vice chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs, and a member of the Legislative Council, the Joint Budget Committee, the Joint Performance Review Committee, the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee and the Senate Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.
Senator Irma Hunter Brown
Arkansas Senate: 2003-2008 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Brown of Little Rock was the first African-American woman elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives and served from 1980 to 1998. She then became the first African-American woman to serve in the history of the Arkansas Senate, after she was elected in 2002. She served in the Senate for six years, and became chair of the Senate Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.
A native of Tampa, Florida, she was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She and her husband, Dr. Roosevelt Brown, raised two children.
She attended Shorter Junior College and graduated magna cum laude from the former Arkansas AM&N University, which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She attended Memphis State University and the former D.C. Teachers College, which later became Federal State University in Washington, D.C.
She was a teacher in Memphis and Washington, D.C. and then director of nutrition education in Little Rock. She worked for the Education Department and was president of Shorter College from 1998 to 2001.
Senator Brown was a member of the NAACP and the North Little Rock Rotary Club.
During her career, she received the ACLU Humanitarian of the Year Award. She belongs to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and received an Honorary Doctorate from Shorter Junior College, and Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Hendrix College in Conway.
Senator Brenda Gullett
Arkansas Senate: 2001–2004 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Brenda Gullett represented Pine Bluff and portions of southeast Arkansas for four years, from 2001 through 2004.
In the 84th General Assembly she was chair of the Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth and vice chair of the Senate Education Committee.
In the 83rd General Assembly she was vice chair of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor and frequently chaired its subcommittee on nursing home funding. She also served on the Joint Budget Committee, which reviews in detail all state agencies' spending requests before the entire Senate considers them.
One of her legislative priorities was expansion of access to quality health care, especially in rural, isolated areas of Arkansas that are medically under-served.
Gullett was the lead sponsor of legislation requested by the state Correction Department to modernize and streamline the operations of state prisons. She sponsored a package of laws that protect people from discrimination based on results of genetic testing and DNA sampling.
Gullett co-sponsored a law to remove the assets test for children to be eligible for Medicaid health coverage. She was the Senate sponsor of legislation to eliminate red tape in the licensing requirements for respiratory care providers.
Gullett was honored by the Arkansas Nurses Association, which awarded her the association's "Friend of Nursing" for her efforts to address the growing shortage of nurses in Arkansas.
She has been recognized as a Friend of the Truckers because she sponsored legislation that makes it clear that enhanced fines imposed against truckers for speeding are authorized only on highways where the different speed limit for trucks is posted.
Prior to her election to the Senate she served a term in the House of Representatives and three terms on the Jefferson County Quorum Court.
A native of Houston, Senator Gullett is a seminar leader and speaker at Brenda Gullett and Associates. She earned a B.A. degree in English and Oral Communication from the University of Houston.
She and her husband, Dr. Robert R. Gullett, Jr., have two sons.
Senator Judy Pridgen
Arkansas Senate: July 2002–January 2003
Senator Judy Pridgen only served about seven months in the Arkansas Senate. She filled Senator Doyle Webb’s seat (District 14) when he resigned to take a position for Lieutenant Governor Win Rockefeller’s staff. Senator Pridgen took over Senator Webb’s committee assignments.
She served on the Judiciary and State Agencies and Government Affairs committees.
She did not seek re-election because she said she did not want to run against Shane Broadway who won the election in November 2003.
Before Senator Pridgen served in the Arkansas Senate she became the first woman sheriff in the state of Arkansas in 1992 for Saline County.
Senator Peggy Jeffries
Arkansas Senate: 1995-1998
Senator Peggy Jeffries represented Fort Smith in the Arkansas Senate for four years, from 1995 through 1998.
She was a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Transportation, Aging and Legislative Affairs Committee. She also served on the Public Retirement and Social Security Systems Committee and the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.
During the 1995 and 1997 legislative sessions, she was the only woman serving in the Senate.
She was a committee member of the Republican National Committee who was active in the Arkansas chapter of the Eagle Forum, and worked for the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Senator Charlie Cole Chaffin
Arkansas Senate: 1984-1994 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Charlie Cole Chaffin was elected in a special election in 1984 after the death of Senator James Teague. She was elected to Senate District 16 that covered parts of Saline and Perry counties.
During Senator Chaffin’s first (75th) General Assembly in 1985 she was a member of the Senate Education Committee. Senator Chaffin took part in five legislative sessions and in four of them she was the only woman.
Senator Gladys Watson joined Senator Chaffin for the 77th General Assembly (1989-1990.)
After serving in the Arkansas Senate she went to work for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.
Senator Gladys Watson
Arkansas Senate: 1989-1990 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Gladys Watson was elected in a special election in 1988 to her husband’s seat. Senator Thomas “Tom” Watson passed away while still serving out this term as state senator for District 5.
Senator Watson served in the 77th General Assembly where the other woman in the Senate was Senator Charlie Cole Chaffin. Senator Watson served on the Senate Public Transportation committee. Senator Watson served in only one session for the Arkansas Senate.
She passed away on January 11, 1996 and is buried in the Monette Memorial Cemetery, in Monette, Arkansas.
Senator Vada Sheid
Arkansas Senate: 1977–1984 (Photo Gallery)
Senator Vada Sheid was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1976. She was the first woman to be elected who had not succeeded through the death of a husband.
Senator Sheid served in the Senate from 1977 to 1984 when she was defeated by Steve Leulf. She represented Arkansas Senate District 20 which covered Baxter, Marion, Boone, Newton and Searcy counties. Senator Sheid was first elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1967 before she came to the upper chamber. She was instrumental in sponsoring legislation creating Arkansas State University – Mountain Home and North AR Community College in Harrison. She also sponsored numerous highway projects including North Fork Lake Bridge, previously only accessible by ferry.
Senator Sheid died on February 11, 2008 at the age of 91. She is buried at Baxter Memorial Gardens in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Senator Dorathy Allen
Arkansas Senate: 1964–1974
Senator Dorathy Allen was elected to the Arkansas Senate in 1964 in a special election. She took her husband’s (Senator Tom Allen) seat after he passed in the previous year (1963).
Senator Dorathy Allen represented District 26 which at the time included Monroe, Lee, Arkansas and Phillips counties. Senator Allen was the first woman to be elected to the Arkansas Senate.
She served until 1974. During the 69th General Assembly (1973) Senator Allen served as the chair of the Legislative Affairs and she was a member of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee. Following her senate tenure she served as a senate clerk in 1975 and 1976.
Senator Dorathy Allen passed away on May, 12, 1990 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Brinkley, Arkansas.