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The earliest recorded Arkansas woman to use a hyphenated name after her marriage, Sallie Irene Robinson-Stanfield Riley, owned and edited the Cleveland County Herald in Rison (Cleveland County) during the 1890s and again early in the twentieth century. She exemplified the progressive spirit among Arkansas women.
Sallie Irene Robinson was born in Tennessee on January 5, 1873, to William B. Robinson and Laura Pettey Robinson. One of her mother’s sisters, Adah Lee Pettey, married newspaperman Leon Roussan of the Osceola Times. Robinson lived with her aunt and received her early training in that office. In 1892 or 1893, she moved to Rison, where she set type for George H. Tisdale at the Cleveland County Herald and shortly thereafter purchased the newspaper.
On June 12, 1895, she married William Joseph Stanfield. Stanfield, a native of Toledo (Cleveland County), had served in the lower house of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly in 1889 and then studied at the University of Virginia law school. Shortly after Stanfield returned to Rison and married Sallie Robinson, the Herald sported the hyphenated name, Robinson-Stanfield. In 1895, Robinson-Stanfield attended the annual meeting of the Arkansas Press Association at Mammoth Spring (Fulton County). After Mrs. C. E. Ratcliffe, the organization’s poet, took exception to William M. Kavanaugh ignoring women in his remark about what “newspapermen were doing for the development of the state,” the association elected Robinson-Stanfield to serve as treasurer. By 1897, her husband had taken charge of the newspaper, and she had begun raising the couple’s five children.
Stanfield was elected to the lower house of the Thirty-second General Assembly in 1898 and reelected in 1900, but he soon became ill, probably from consumption (tuberculosis). He died in Texas, where he had gone for his heath in 1906. Robinson-Stanfield then reclaimed the newspaper. In “A Card” to the Herald’s readers on April 5, 1906, she confessed that, during the previous eighteen months, medical expenses had reduced the family’s supply of ready money “to almost nothing” and begged for readers to pay up their accounts. She signed the card, “Sallie I. Stanfield.”
The widow shortly thereafter sold the newspaper but repurchased it in 1912, owning it for the next four years. A strong progressive, she was “always to be found lending her opinion and influence to the projects which were calculated for the betterment and the advancement of its people.” She was also director of the Bank of Rison and a member of the Methodist church.
In 1915, when she married John Clayton Riley, the editor of the Black Rock Blade (Lawrence County) and other newspapers in the area, she did not use a hyphenated name. In 1919, the Rileys retired first to Hot Springs (Garland County) and then to a farm in Cleveland County, where he preceded her in death. She died on March 1, 1933, and is buried in Rison.
For additional information:Allsopp, Fred W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Publishing Co., 1924.
Cleveland County, Arkansas: Our History and Heritage. Rison, AR: Cleveland County Historical and Genealogical Society, 2006.
Dougan, Michael B. Community Diaries; Arkansas Newspapering, 1819–2002. Little Rock: August House, 2003.
Obituary of Mrs. Sallie T. Riley. Arkansas Gazette. March 3, 1933, p. 12.
Obituary of Mrs. Sallie T. Riley. Cleveland County Herald. March 2, 1933, p. 1.
Michael B. DouganJonesboro, Arkansas
Last Updated 12/5/2011
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