Southern Magnolias and Orange Lilies: Gender, Class, and School Integration at Central High and Holy Cross

By Misti Nicole Harper.

Published by The International Journal of Humanities Education

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Scholars have written volumes regarding pro-active American Southern and Northern Irish women in the American civil rights movement and Northern Ireland’s “troubles”. This work generally examines the South’s white, upper-class integrationists and Northern Ireland’s Catholic Republicans, while Southern working-class segregationists and Northern Ireland’s Protestant Loyalists are ignored. These women and the reasons for their invisibility in historical records are similar. Both cultures demanded feminine submission to “their place”, serving God and man, Dixie and Ulster; conservatism discouraged females from politics. This explores the unusual public stance of Southern working-class segregationist women and Northern Ireland’s working-class Protestant females during Little Rock’s Central High School crisis of 1957 and Belfast’s Holy Cross Primary School protest of 2001. Segregationists protested integrating black students, while Protestants railed at Catholic families who walked their daughters to school via the exclusively Protestant Glenbryn Estate. In analyzing these events, I examine the gender history and traditions of each group. I survey the social environment that motivated these women’s protests, and the justifications used to delve into the public arena while defending the status quo. I also examine how these choices altered political roles for both groups in the protests’ aftermath. My analysis yields integral conclusions regarding the personal and political ideologies of Southern segregationist and Northern Irish Protestant females. This study explores the fears and anxieties that these females held toward what they regarded as black and Catholic encroachment in their societies. My study belongs to a limited body of research that will hopefully begin to provide understanding of the perspectives and consequences of two distantly separated groups of women who have been quieted in the Central High and Holy Cross dramas.

Keywords: Little Rock Central High School, Mothers’ League, Segregation, Holy Cross Primary School, Unionist, Loyalist, Nationalist/Republican, The Ardoyne, Glenbryn Estate

The International Journal of Humanities Education, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp.11-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 330.376KB).

Misti Nicole Harper

Student, J.W. Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, History Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA

I am a first-year history Ph.D. student at the University of Arkansas. I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas in May 2011. For three years before I decided to pursue my Master’s, I taught social studies for the United States Army National Guard GED Plus Program, which I continued to do for two years over the course of my Master’s program. I am an Americanist earning specialization in Southern/US civil rights history and women’s history. Researching episodes within the American civil rights movement prompted my interest in international civil rights battles, leading to my studies of Northern Ireland’s troubles; opposition movements among women within both nations laid the foundation for my project, Southern Magnolias and Orange Lilies. I want to continue with comparative work in these fields, and to that end I am also earning minor fields in UK, Northern Ireland and British Africa civil rights and women’s history.