Q: Kansas, the 34th star on the American flag, has produced one president, one vice-president, three astronauts and numerous aviators, artists, educators, inventors and journalists - not to mention a good share of the farmers who help feed the world. January 29, also known as Kansas Day, is the state's birthday -- the date we became a state. How old will Kansas be on Monday (January 29)?
Kansas became the 34th state admitted to the Union on January 29th, 1861, on the eve of the American Civil War. Every year on January 29th, school children across the state celebrate Kansas Day, the state's birthday. And you should too because of all the great people Kansas has produced in its glorious 157-year history. Kansas gave the world Dwight Eisenhower, the five star general and World War II hero who served two terms as president. Kansas also produced the record-setting aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, from Atchison. Sure, you may have heard about those two famous Kansans. But what about the state's astronauts? NASA's Ron Evans grew up in St. Francis and Topeka and Joe Engle grew up in Abilene and Chapman. Astronaut Steve Hawley grew up in Ottawa and Salina. And Edward J. Dwight - the first African American named to the astronaut program (in 1963) - grew up in Kansas City, Kansas! Largely due to discrimination, Dwight didn't get to go into space. Undeterred, he became a world famous sculptor instead! *And don't forget about these other great people from the Sunflower State (in no particular order or ranking):
Clyde Tombaugh, Burdett, who discovered Pluto
Jack Kilby, Great Bend, inventor of the microchip
Charles Curtis, Topeka, first Native American to serve as vice president
Elmer McCollum, Fort Scott (Redfield), who discovered Vitamins A & B
L. Worth Seagondollar, Hoisington, who helped invent the atomic bomb
Clarina Nichols, Lawrence, editor, abolitionist and advocate for women's rights
Fred Harvey, Leavenworth, entrepreneur, father of chain restaurants and hotels
George Washington Carver, Ottawa & Ness counties, botanist who made amazing discoveries w/ peanuts & soybeans
Samuel Crumbine, Dodge City, public health crusader, sanitation advocate
Satanta / Settainte, Medicine Lodge, Kiowa war chief, advocate for Native Americans
Gordon Parks, Fort Scott, famous photographer, writer and film director
Walter Chysler, Wamego and Ellis, automobile manufacturer
Takeru Higuchi, KU professor who invented slow release time medicines
Clyde Cessna, Rago, Kansas, aviator, airplane manufacturer
Walter and Olive Ann Beech, Wichita and Waverly, Kansas, aviators, titans of aviation industry
Harry Colmery, Topeka, crafted the G.I. Bill
William Allen White, Emporia, Pultizer Prize-winning newspaper editor
Otis Ray McIntire, Gardner, inventor of Styrofoam
James A. Naismith, Canadian who moved to Lawrence, inventor of basketball
Forrest "Phog" Allen, Missourian who moved to Lawrence, Father of Basketball Coaching
Omar Knedlik, Coffeyville, inventor of the ICEE and Slurpee
Russell and Clara Stover, Alton, Kansas, candy makers
But wait! Shouldn't there be more women represented on this list? Sure, so let's take a look at many of the "female firsts" associated with Kansas.
Kansas had the NATION's:
First female mayor - (Susanna Salter, of Argonia!)
First woman city manager (1928, Rena Milner, Kinsley, Kansas)
First all-female city council – in Oskaloosa in 1888! (Syracuse, Kansas disputes this claim and says it had the nation's first all-woman city council in 1887! So, maybe they both deserve credit for such early progress on this front?)
First female U.S. Treasurer (Georgia Neese Clark Gray, of Richland, Kansas / SN CO)
First woman war correspondent (The first modern war correspondent was Peggy Hull, a Bennington, Kansas, farm girl. With help of General John J. Pershing, Hull became nation's first officially accredited female war correspondent.)
One of the nation's first female sheriffs - (Mabel Chase, Kiowa County. On November 2, 1926, Mabel Chase was elected Kiowa County sheriff, the first female sheriff in Kansas - and among the first women elected sheriff in the United States.)
First woman elected in her own right to the U.S. Senate (Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, Topeka, Kansas)
And the first female Harlem Globetrotter (Lynette Woodard, Wichita - also first woman to have basketball jersey retired at KU)
Oh, and the nation's first female dentist? She set up her practice in Lawrence! (Lucy Hobbs Taylor became a dentist in 1861 and established a successful practice in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1867. Incidentally, In 1866, she became the first woman IN THE WORLD to receive a doctorate in dentistry.)
Kansas was the first state to have a female governor, a woman U.S. Senator and Congress-WOMAN all serving in office at the same time. (Joan Finney, Nancy Landon Kassebaum and Jan Meyers, respectively, in the 1990s)
Kansas gave women the right to vote before the 19th Amendment gave it to the rest of the country.
Incidentally: we’ve also got some pretty good-looking folks here in Kansas, including three Miss Americas (Kansas women took the crown in 1966, 1968 and 1997: Deborah Bryant of Overland Park, Debra Barnes of Moran and Tara Dawn Holland of Overland Park, respectively)
These are just a few of the many incredible Kansans worth remembering on the state's birthday! It's even more impressive when you remember that all of these people came from -- or are associated with -- a state with less than one percent of the nation's population. You're welcome, world. Love, Kansas.
*Editor's note: This list of awesome Kansans is by no means complete. There is likely not enough space available on the Internet to hold such exhaustive information. However, the Kansas Historical Society provides a good place to start and has created a list of famous, important and / or noteworthy people associated with Kansas.