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The Arkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) was created to bring together professional women artists, writers, and composers for the protection and sharing of their mutual interests. The Arkansas Branch was the ninth branch to join the National League.
The Arkansas Branch, as it was first called, was founded by Bernie Babcock in 1920 with seven charter members. The group’s mission has been identical to that of the National League, which was founded in 1897 in Washington DC, with the purpose of encouraging creative work in art, letters, and music and promoting professional growth of members.
The charter of the Arkansas Branch was presented at the first national NLAPW meeting in 1921. Babcock was the first Arkansas state Pen Women president (1920–1924) and also served as national second vice president (1924–1926). In 1952, the Arkansas Branch became the Arkansas Pioneer Branch and, as of 2007, had twenty-three members.
The branch’s major project, the Arkansas Writers’ Conference, was founded in 1944 by Helen Hall. An annual event, the conference features programs on writing and contests with over $2,000 in cash awards. The conference established the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame in 1989, with criteria for induction including being a living Arkansas writer whose work is recognized for excellence and who has made a substantial contribution to the writing profession in Arkansas.
Other projects include the awarding of scholarships, luncheons at the Governor’s Mansion to honor visiting national Pen Women presidents (and branch members), and participating in national biennial meetings.
Three branch members have been appointed to the position of Arkansas poet laureate: Lily Peter, appointed in 1971 by Governor Dale Bumpers; Verna Lee Hinegardner, appointed in 1991 by Governor Bill Clinton; and Peggy Vining, appointed in 2003 by Governor Mike Huckabee. Eva Ware Barnett, an earlier member, wrote the song “Arkansas,” which in 1987 became Arkansas’s official state anthem. Two branch members have been named Arkansas’s Mother of the Year: Peggy Vining in 1982 and Swann Kohler in 1990. Lucille Babcock, a branch member and Bernie Babcock’s granddaughter, received the Andrew Carnegie Hero Award in 1987 for preventing the rape of a young woman. Selections for inductions into the Arkansas Writers’ Hall of Fame include six branch members: Lily Peter, Anna Nash Yarbrough, Edith Dean, Verna Lee Hinegardner, Clovita Rice, and Laura Parker Castro.
In addition to the Arkansas Pioneer Branch, the state has two other NLAPW branches, the Northwest Arkansas Branch and the Spring River Branch in Cherokee Village (Sharp County). In 2009, the branch published the book, Our Arkansas… Selected Places.
For additional information:Hancock, Orville. Dream Weavers: A History of the Arkansas Writers Conference, 1944–1998. N.p.: 1998.
National League of American Pen Women. http://www.nlapw.org/ (accessed February 26, 2016).
Clovita RiceArkansas Pioneer Branch of the National League of American Pen Women
Last Updated 12/27/2018
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