Mary Creegan Roark

Randolph Hollingsworth's picture

Project Name:

Project Name:
Kentucky Woman Suffrage

Name of Historic Site:

Name of Historic Site:
Richmond Cemetery

Event(s)/Use associated with woman/group/site:

Event(s)/Use associated with woman/group/site:
Burial site for Mary Creegan Roark (1861-1922), KERA officer, educator and second president of Eastern Kentucky University

County:

County:
Madison

Town/City:

Town/City:
Richmond

Zip Code:

Zip Code:
40475
Street Address: 
606 E Main Street

Associated Organization:

Associated Organization:
Richmond Cemetery

Years of Importance:

Years of Importance:
1880-1894
1894-1912
1912-1920
Geographic Location: 
Your Affiliation: 
Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project

Additional Comments:

Additional Comments:

Mary Creegan Roark (1 September 1861 - 1 February 1922) came from Brighton, Iowa and was educated at Nebraska University, Oberlin College and the National Normal School in Lebanon, Ohio. After earning both a Bachelor's of Science and of Art from the National Normal University she taught there for four years in Lebanon, Ohio. She came to Kentucky after she married Ruric Nevel Roark, a National Normal University graduate, on July 1, 1881. They served as principal and vice-principal at the Normal School in Glasgow from 1885 until 1889 when they moved to Lexington for Ruric's job as Dean of the Normal School Department at the Kentucky State College (now University of Kentucky). She started the Lexington chapter of the Sorosis woman's club and served as its President for many years. She was also a charter member of the Woman's Club of Central Kentucky. In the fall of 1895, Lexington's women voted in the local public school board elections and she was elected to the Lexington Public School Board. In 1898 she was elected as corresponding secretary for the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA), an important position that coordinated the reports for all the local clubs. In 1903 she chaired the Woman's Council Committee, a joint group of KERA and Fayette ERA volunteers that organized a program for the Lexington Chatauqua at Woodland Park. Roark served as an officer in KERA for nearly every year until 1911, also taking on the role of chair of the Education Committee of the Kentucky Federation of Women's Club after the Kentucky legislature revoked the partial woman suffrage law. She collaborated with Madeline McDowell Breckinridge in writing op eds and pamphlets on the role of women in educational reform and women's suffrage. In 1905 the Roarks moved with their four children to Worchester, Mass., where her husband could work on his graduate studies for a year at Clark University. They then moved to Richmond when Ruric was appointed the first president of the Eastern Kentucky Normal School. He fell ill with brain cancer, and while he was being treated in a Cincinnati hospital, the trustees appointed Mary as acting president. When he died two months later on April 14, 1909, she was then officially appointed as president, and she was granted his salary -- an important point in her advocacy for women in education. In her leadership role at Eastern Normal School, she guided the addition of sports leagues at the school, established the first all-female residence hall and oversaw the erection of two new buildings on campus: Roark, which was used for teaching the sciences and agriculture as well as her administrative offices; and the new campus power plant. She was the first female to serve as president of a public higher education institution in Kentucky history. After her role as president ended in April 1910, she stayed on as Dean of Women until 1915. Then she left Kentucky to earn her Masters degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1916. She died while she was in Baltimore, and her body was brought back to be buried beside her husband and one of her sons Ruric (1894-1918) Her daughter Mary Kathleen Roark (1898-1981) was also buried alongside her there in Section J, Lot 681 in the Richmond Cemetery.


Reference source of Information:

Reference source of Information:
William E. Ellis, A History of Eastern Kentucky University: The School of Opportunity (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), 28-29. Melba Hay, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2009), 81, 109, 131.