These 10 women who were selected as Missouri’s most influential and inspiring women of the century for their mark on state history.
The famous Kewpie doll might not seem like an obvious symbol of women’s suffrage. The cheerful, topknot-wearing cherub is more likely to invoke thoughts of whimsy or naivety.
And while that may have been part of Rose O’Neill’s inspiration, there was certainly much more to the talented and influential artist.
“After O’Neill made money with Kewpies, she bought an apartment on Washington Square, so she’s right there, using her art to support the suffrage movement,” curator Sarah Gordon told the News-Leader in 2018.
Gordon, at the time, was speaking about O’Neill’s work creating art for posters and postcards that were used to advocate for women’s right to vote.
One famous poster, showing a man and woman holding hands, read “Together for home and family — vote yes for the woman suffrage amendment.”
The bulk of O’Neill’s work occurred prior to 1920, so she was not included in our list of Missouri’s 10 most influential women of the last century. However, she absolutely created a path for those who followed.
This list, part of USA Today’s Women of the Century project, was created with nominations from the public and experts, some of whom assisted in narrowing down the candidates.
Because this nationwide project includes women who have done important work across state lines, some deserving candidates may appear on another state’s list. One of America’s finest poets and civil rights activists, Maya Angelou, is from St. Louis, but moved to California as a teen and did much of her work in other parts of the country as an adult.
Others may have had incredible impacts on local communities but are less known at the state and national level. There is an opportunity for those women to be recognized as part of another project, Womankind. Here are the 10 women who were ultimately selected as Missouri’s most influential of the century, representing fields as varied as politics, activism, the arts, science and sports.
(See photo captions for individual stories)