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Lucy Byrd Mock (1876–1966)

Lucy Byrd Mock, a native of Prairie Grove (Washington County), set numerous records as a golfer, established two national World War I–era women’s organizations, and was a noted author, journalist, poet, and publisher.

Lucy Byrd Mock was born in Prairie Grove on February 23, 1876, the second of James Mock and Amanda Patton Mock’s six children. She was a student at the Methodist Academy in Prairie Grove until 1890, when she was admitted to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) as a fourteen-year-old sophomore. After completing the spring semester in 1893, she spent part of her summer break on a trip overseas to Great Britain, where she learned to play golf. Mock enjoyed the game so much that she purchased a set of golf clubs and some balls to bring home.

However, as there was no golf course in the state at the time, Mock was determined to create her own. An uncle offered her a portion of land on his farm south of Prairie Grove, and Mock drafted a five-hole layout that included putting greens and fairways. With the help of several farm workers, Mock constructed her small golf course. Upon its completion that summer, the seventeen-year-old golfer and a group of friends played the first round of golf in Arkansas. When Mock returned to UA in the fall, she became the first player to represent the school in that sport. She was later confirmed to be Arkansas’s first golfer and golf instructor, and the world’s first woman to design and build a golf course.

After her graduation from UA in 1894 with a degree in journalism, Mock taught at Jessamine College in Kentucky until 1900, when she returned to UA to pursue an MA degree, although school records do not identify her field of study. Upon receiving her MA in 1905, Mock became the first female student at UA to earn a post-graduate diploma. She moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and taught Greek and Latin at Forest Park University for Women, then left the school several years later to write articles for the city’s newspapers.

Around 1909, Mock relocated to Seattle, Washington, where she wrote magazine articles about the area’s scenic locations, history, and Native American culture. One of her most famous publications was a three-edition poem she composed under the pen name Le Moqueur (The Mocker). Self-published by Mock, “The Maid of Pend d’Oreille; An Indian Idyl” (1910) described the ill-fated relationship between an Indian “princess” and a white man. Each of the three editions had unique covers made of either calfskin, horsehide, or birchbark. Owners of the calfskin “cowboy edition” included two U.S. presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Another recipient was King George V, who received a copy in 1911 during his coronation festivities, and in 1914 an edition of the poem was displayed at the Book Exhibit in Leipzig, Germany. Three copies of the poem with each distinctive cover reside at the Library of Congress.

After the debut of “The Maid of Pend d’Oreille,” Mock opened a publishing firm called At the Sign of the Mocking Bird in order to print her own books and periodicals. Publications of her poetry, as well as articles highlighting the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty and resources, prompted the Seattle Star newspaper to christen Mock “Seattle’s own poetess.”

Mock married William Lafayette Crittenden, a descendant of Arkansas politician Robert Crittenden, in 1911 in Seattle; they had divorced by 1915, and she moved to California.

About a year after the United States entered World War I in 1917, Mock started the American Girls’ Legion, a national organization for girls twelve and older to help with the war effort. Mock was in charge of the California chapter, while her friend Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni of Fayetteville agreed to lead the Arkansas division. Legion participants learned how to prepare and conserve food and administer first aid. They also received guidance on how to vote if ever given this right (which was granted in 1920 upon ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment).

Following the war’s end in 1919, Mock moved across the country to Washington DC and set up another patriotic organization called the National Society of the American Women’s Legion. Her goal with this group was to commemorate the war service of both men and women, catalog women’s war records, and administer a loan fund for wounded veterans. This was one of several postwar women’s service associations that was succeeded by the American Legion Auxiliary.

Mock married Willet E. Dentinger in 1923, and they moved to New York City; they divorced by 1930. Mock was living in Los Angeles, California, when the city hosted the 1932 summer Olympics, which inspired her to write “The Olympic Games: Past, Present, and Future, A Pindaric Ode.” The poem was displayed at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, and a copy was given to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Mock’s talent as a journalist, poet, and author earned her membership in the early 1920s to the National Association of University Women, National League of American Pen Women, and the Women’s National Press Club. In 1999, she was posthumously admitted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame due to her record-setting accomplishments in that sport.

Mock spent the latter part of her career as a reviewing editor in New York City from the mid-1930s until her retirement in 1956, when she moved to Eureka Springs (Carroll County). She died on November 17, 1966, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and is buried in the Prairie Grove Cemetery.

For additional information:
“Funny Story.” “Miss Mock is Founder.” “Written in California.” Washington Herald, November 23, 1919, Society section, p. 5.

Helbling, Dusty. “Lucy Byrd Mock.” Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society 23 (September 1999): 18–19. Online at https://library.uafs.edu/sites/librarydev.uafs.edu/files/Departments/fshsj/23-02_complete_issue.pdf (accessed September 10, 2018).

“L. Byrd Mock: Fayetteville Girl Has Seattle Guessing What She Will Do Next.” Fayetteville Daily, June 13, 1911, 1.

“Lucy Byrd Mock.” Who’s Who in the Nation’s Capital, 1921–1922. Washington DC: The Consolidated Publishing Company, 1922.

“Notes on the Work of Miss L. Byrd Mock.” Confederate Veteran 19, no. 5 (May 1911): 253.

Susan Parks-Spencer
Prairie Grove, Arkansas

 

Last Updated 9/10/2018

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