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2009 Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame
March 26, 2009 Induction Ceremony
From L-R: Sister of Edna Miller Hennessee, Suzanne Edmondson, First Lady Kim Henry,
Maj. Gen LaRita A. Aragon, OK ANG/USAF, Retired, Secretary of State Susan Savage,
Carolyn Whitener, Patricia Dennis (great granddaughter of Mirabeau Lamar Cole Looney)
Inductees and Bios
Maj. Gen. LaRita A. Aragon, OK ANG/USAF, Retired
Born in Dale, Oklahoma, General Aragon became the first woman to hold the rank of Brigadier General in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and the first female commander of the Air National Guard. After a distinguished career, Gen. Aragon retired and returned to her first career in education, where she serves as Director of Advanced Programs at the OU College of Continuing Education. Of Choctaw descent, Gen. Aragon’s Oklahoma spirit exemplifies her service to her family and her country. Aragon serves on a number of boards and has been recognized many times for her contributions to her community.
Suzanne Edmondson turned a personal tragedy into an opportunity to encourage and empower women in prison and through her volunteer work has focused her attention on the myriad of issues affecting incarcerated women In 1996, Edmondson began a new career as a corrections volunteer and has mentored women who in the eyes of many are not worthy of our attention. She became a literacy tutor and began working weekly at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma and created a program called “Tales for the Rising Moon” that helps incarcerated women stay in contact with their children by taping bedtime stories for their children at home. Edmondson founded Friends of Edie Warrior Foundation (FEW) dedicated to providing college scholarships and textbooks to deserving and qualified inmates of EWCC. FEW’s grants in the past ten years have totaled 853.
Edna Miller Hennessee
Raised on an Oklahoma cattle ranch during the Great Depression, Hennessee embodies the pioneer spirit. Hennessee taught herself chemistry and mixing in her own kitchen in Lawton, Oklahoma. After saving enough money during World War II, Hennessee decided to go into the cosmetics business and bought a one-way bus ticket and a loaf of bread and headed to L.A. to attend training. Once Hennessee made enough money to pay for a franchise, she headed back to Lawton and opened her first studio. By 1950, she had expanded her business and opened Hennessee Family Center which later became the largest salon in the Lawton area. Edna Hennessee’s pioneering spirit is exemplified in her business as she is known as a “pioneer and entrepreneur” in the cosmetics and aloe vera industries and it was her corporation that helped start the Aloe industry. By 1973, Hennessee grew her dream of a cosmetics business into Cosmetic Specialty Labs, a family-owned and operated company serving more than 10,000 customers in all 50 states and 23 foreign countries.
First Lady Kim Henry
A lifelong Oklahoman, Kim Henry has devoted herself to education. Henry spent ten years teaching American History and government at her alma mater, Shawnee High School. From her years as a classroom teacher to her advocacy work on behalf of troubled youth through the Thunderbird Youth Academy, the First Lady has been a strong and compassionate voice for the children of Oklahoma. Mrs. Henry has fought to make education a priority in our state and as First Lady has been particularly instrumental in pushing for increased early childhood educational opportunities in Oklahoma. More recently, Kim Henry has launched the MyTakeOnHealth Video Challenge wherein Oklahoma young people and students make video spots about health topics. First Lady Kim Henry has advocated on behalf of the health of Oklahomans, particularly children. Henry has also been actively involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Mirabeau Lamar Cole Looney - posthumously
Lamar Looney, came to Oklahoma Territory with her husband. Soon after she was widowed and left to raise five children between the ages of 2 months and 10 years. Working as an organ teacher and a postmistress, Looney first sought office in 1912 when she was elected registrar of deeds for Harmon County. From there she went on to serve as county treasurer, county clerk, and in 1920 became the first woman elected to the Oklahoma Senate. Senator Looney was a highly effective legislator and was re-elected to a second term. Within the Senate she chaired the State and County Affairs Committee and the Agriculture Committee along with numerous other senate committees. She was a budget hawk and constantly looked for ways to save taxpayers money.
Secretary of State Susan Savage
Savage served as the Mayor of Tulsa from 1992 to 2002 making her the most tenured and first woman mayor in Tulsa’s history. As Mayor, Savage served as Tulsa’s chief executive officer, responsible for a $500 million budget and 4,000 employees. During her tenure, Savage implemented more than one billion dollars in infrastructure investments for streets, parks, water, wastewater, storm water, public safety, cultural and correctional facilities. Among numerous awards and special recognition, Savage was inducted into the Oklahoma Municipal League Hall of Fame for City and Town Officials in 2005; was the 2002 National Conference for Community and Justice Honoree for leadership; received an Honorary Doctor of Laws in 2000 from Arcadia University; and is a past recipient of the Oklahoma Human Rights award. Savage was Oklahoma’s Secretary of State by Governor Brad Henry in 2003.
Thirty-seven years ago a young Oklahoma woman, Carolyn Whitener, took on local officials, the Oklahoma Attorney General, the legislature and the Governor. Whitener first, brought suite against the State of Oklahoma and its officials for enforcing sex discrimination laws. The suit challenged the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s law defining, for the purpose of purchasing beer, a minor as male being 21 and under and for females being 18 and under. Craig v. Boren was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court and on December 20, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the appeals court and district court and struck down the Oklahoma law and, as a result, laws that discriminate on the basis of sex generally. Her courage, intelligence, and perseverance led her voice to be heard in the highest court of the country and as a result extended civil rights to everyone. Craig v. Boren is the basis for subsequent Supreme Court decisions striking down laws discriminating against women, including the Virginia Military Institute and Citadel cases.