Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Spotlighting Mamie Edwards Stinson McKnight

To wrap up women’s history month, this writer would like to spotlight Mamie Edwards Stinson McKnight, a Bossier Parish native who made a difference in this parish. She was born into a family of highly influential and esteemed members of the parish and married the same.

Mamie was born in Haughton, LA, in 1887 to John Ford Edwards and Hattie Wyche Edwards. However, she lived the majority of her life in Benton, LA, after moving there with her family after her father became a Bossier Parish Deputy. In 1904, Edwards was elected as the 12th Sheriff of Bossier Parish, where he served until 1920.

When it comes to law enforcement, her Grandfather, Major Robert Emmett Wyche, was the 10th Sheriff of Bossier Parish. He is recorded as the first democratic sheriff elected during reconstruction in 1878, after serving in the Civil War, until his untimely death in 1889.

As for Mamie, she is recognized as one of only two students in the first graduating class of Benton High School in 1904, in which she and Francis “Frank” Worth Scanland were also the first to be awarded diplomas during the first commencement exercise in the school’s history. Mamie attended every graduation at Benton High School until she was no longer physically able to. In 1963, the Shere Khan, Benton High School’s yearbook, was dedicated to her in honor of being in the first graduating class. At that time, she was the oldest living graduate and was affectionately called “Mamie Dear.”

Being the first female graduate of Benton High School was not the only first for Mamie. She was also the first acting postmistress for the Benton Post office from Jul. 10, 1919 until Apr. 5, 1920. By the way, did you know that March 2020 is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Benton Post Office?

She was among the first of the women to register to vote in Bossier Parish after the 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. Her name appeared in The Bossier Banner on Oct. 7, 1920, along with 160 other women of this parish that had registered to vote since the first woman, Mary Bixler, registered on Sept. 17, 1920.

Mamie was always involved in the community, on Aug. 28, 1913, she attended the first meeting of the Woman’s Club, The Domestic Art Club, as a charter member and as the club’s treasurer. She also served as the Chairman of the committee for constitution and bylaws for the Benton Self-Culture Club, which organized on Sept. 15, 1915.

In 1918 she served as a committee member in charge of securing a furnished workroom for the Benton Branch of the Shreveport Chapter of the American Red Cross. The group was working on knitting and sewing garments to be given to soldiers overseas, as well as hospital garments and bandages.

She loved history and her affiliations with the following groups is a testament to this fact. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution; Colonial Dames of America; United Daughters of the Confederacy; American Legion Auxiliary; and the North Louisiana Historical Society. From 1946-1951 she served as the Benton Town Secretary. She was a former member of the Bossier Parish Library Board, a member of the Benton United Methodist Church, and the Women’s Society of Christian Service.

In 1953, Mamie served as the Bossier Parish 110th Anniversary program chairman., which was “marked by talks on little known facts of historic interest which occurred in Bossier Parish.” Guest speakers included Lilla McLure and Rupert Peyton. She headed up the Benton chapter fundraising event during the 1956 Bossier Parish Cancer Fund campaign.

Mamie is among dozens of women that have made a difference in Bossier Parish, some of these women are on display in our current exhibit at the History Center. To learn more about Bossier Parish History and the women who made a difference, visit, call or email the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City. We are your Bossier Parish history repository.

As I write this, COVID-19 is rapidly changing our day to day lives. Keep an eye on our website for updates on what the Bossier Parish Libraries can offer during these difficult times. If you are not able to visit the library for any reason, know that we provide access to most of our databases through our website, including the History Center’s collections database. You can access e-books, audio-books, movies, and music through these databases from your computer or phone. Please, take measures to protect yourselves and those around you that are of high risk. Be vigilant, and together we can get through this.

By: Amy Robertson

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