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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Sallie Sturgeon
(4271, Frederick S. Barde Collection, OHS).


Sallie Sturgeon, an Oklahoma health inspector, was born in Missouri circa 1870. She moved to Oklahoma City in 1894, finally settling in Ardmore. She soon began a career in journalism by reporting for two Ardmore newspapers, the Statesman and the Daily Ardmoreite. In 1908 she began publishing the first magazine for Oklahoma women, The Oklahoma Lady, which she sold a year later. Moving back to Oklahoma City in 1910, Sturgeon enlarged her journalistic opportunities. There she started the Sturgeon News Service and wrote a book, Sketchbook: Fourth Legislature Oklahoma (1913). She was an important voice in the antisuffrage campaign, arguing vigorously that women should not be allowed to vote.

Her husband, Thomas H. Sturgeon, a retired deputy clerk of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, died suddenly in 1919, and one year later Gov. James B. A. Robertson appointed Sallie Sturgeon as inspector for the Oklahoma State Health Department, the first woman in the United States to hold that position. As she inspected hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores, her slogan was "Clean up or close up!" Although many business owners balked, she always achieved the desired result–cleaner and more sanitary public accommodations. Although many men thought it was no job for a woman, Sallie Sturgeon loved her work as a health inspector. She once told a reporter, "I've never enjoyed anything so much in my life, for it seems as if I'm really doing some good." In 1930, when Oklahoma City responded to the poverty of the Great Depression by building a new community camp of small houses for migrants, Sturgeon became the social worker for the community. Sturgeon died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on March 13, 1955.

Christine Pappas

Learn More

Opal Hartsell Brown, Indomitable Oklahoma Women (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1994).

Bernice Norman Crockett, "No Job for a Woman," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 61 (Summer 1983).

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 14 March 1955.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Christine Pappas, “Sturgeon, Sallie Lewis Stephens,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ST057.

Published January 15, 2010

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