Catherine Hodges Hamilton Hepinstall passed away March 10, 2021. We were honored to know Catherine and to have her as a lifetime honorary member of AAUW. Her wonderful stories of the courageous and important things she did as an active member of AAUW inspire us to this day. The telling of them gave both her and the AAUW Book Club tremendous pleasure. She was always delightful, interesting, enthusiastic and encouraging.
Catherine's obituary is here.
Below is a tribute to Catherine that was posted on the AAUW Little Rock Facebook page. Read below about how, as a member of AAUW Little Rock, she was involved in the famous "barefoot and pregnant" uproar in the early 1960's!
We've lost another one of AAUW Little Rock's best activists, Catherine Hamilton Hepinstall. Read here how in 1963 she helped bring down a state legislator by putting her arms around a cow.
"State Representative Paul Van Dalsem supported Governor Faubus throughout the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis and following events. He led investigations and secret hearings designed to harass and tarnish the image of proponents of desegregation. He was rumored to have a role in the firing of the Little Rock teachers and administrators.
In the 1963 legislative session, AAUW and Van Dalsem consistently took opposing positions. AAUW hosted a public debate between Van Dalsem and David Pryor, then a state representative, where Van Dalsem showed open hostility to AAUW and other women’s groups who advocated positions contrary to his own. When AAUW Little Rock member Eleanor Reid spoke to the House Rules Committee regarding voter registration, Van Dalsem interrupted her and tried to prevent her from speaking. When he was over-ruled, he stormed out of the meeting. AAUW and other women’s groups successfully blocked a Van Dalsem attempt to remove Winthrop Rockefeller from the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission (AIDC).
After the session, Van Dalsem received public criticism from other, more reform-minded legislators.
Van Dalsem did not take such direct and indirect criticism lying down. On August 1, Van Dalsem spoke to the Little Rock Junior Chamber of Commerce and told them he believed that the legislative session had in fact been productive and that Arkansas government overall was in good shape. He also complained that his image had been tarnished by the AAUW and by Little Rock newspapers. Then on Tuesday, August 27, Van Dalsem spoke to the all-male Little Rock Optimist Club at the Albert Pike Hotel. In a speech that would become part of Arkansas’ political folklore, Van Dalsem expressed his view that women should not participate in politics:
'We don’t have any of these university women in Perry County, but I’ll tell you what we do up there when one of our women starts poking around in something she doesn’t know anything about. We get her an extra milk cow. If that don’t work, we give her a little more garden to tend to. And then if that’s not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.'
This statement appeared in the Arkansas Gazette the next day. AAUW made an effort to keep the story in the news to serve as a rallying point. Catherine Hamilton Hepinstall, a fellow AAUW member, appeared on the front page of the paper on August 30 with her arms around a cow and the caption: 'Is This All There Is to It? Mrs. David Hamilton had been studying legislative books instead of the care of cows. AAUW Laughs Right Back At Attack of Van Dalsem.' The following Saturday a group of women of Perry County protested on the courthouse lawn with a statement with 154 signatures denouncing the statement.
Van Dalsem’s remarks made him a pariah with the female votes whose support he would later seek in Pulaski County; and the remarks would haunt him for the rest of his political life.”
Barefoot and Pregnant: The Education of Paul Van Dalsem, Robert Thompson, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. LVII, No. 4, Winter 1998, p. 394