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Timeline of West Virginia Women's History

Compiled by the West Virginia State Archives

1755. On July 8, a settlement at Draper's Meadows (present-day Radford, Virginia) along the New River was attacked by Shawnee Indians; nearly all settlers were killed or captured, including Mary Ingles, who authored a famous account of her captivity and escape through the New River Gorge. During the 1700s, there were numerous clashes between white settlers and American Indians, particularly as settlement spread into western Virginia, which Native Americans used as a hunting ground. In many instances, these settlements violated treaties which had been negotiated with Native Americans. Source: Lewis, History of West Virginia, 618.

1791. Mary Kinnan was captured and her husband and daughter were killed by Shawnee Indians along the Tygart Valley River in Randolph County. Kinnan lived with her captors for 3« years. Source: Conley and Doherty, West Virginia History, 142.

1791. According to legend, Anne Bailey rode to present-day Lewisburg to obtain ammunition for settlers at Fort Lee at present-day Charleston, which was being attacked by Native Americans. More recent studies suggest this incident may never have occurred. Source: Conley and Doherty, West Virginia History, 148-149.

1824. On February 14, John S. Gallaher first published the Ladies' Garland newspaper at Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, one of the first newspapers addressed primarily to women. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, p. 21.

1831. On March 23, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act confirming the sale of a lot and house belonging to the Monongalia Academy in Morgantown and authorizing the academy to establish a female seminary. The Monongalia Academy later became part of West Virginia University. Prior to the Civil War, private academies for girls were established throughout the state. Students were charged a fee to attend thereby limiting enrollment to wealthier families. However, the academies were a source of education for girls, a privilege previously restricted to boys. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia.

1836. On March 15, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Charlestown Athenaeum and Female Academy in Charles Town, Jefferson County. This was the Female Department of the Charlestown Academy, established in 1798. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 76-77.

1839. On January 30, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Morgantown Female Academy in Morgantown. It was directed by a group of male trustees, including future statehood leader Waitman T. Willey. The academy had been in existence since 1833. This act separated the girls' school from a boys' school, Monongalia Academy. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 82-83.

1847. On February 1, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Male and Female Academy of Buckhannon in present-day Upshur County. Future Governor Daniel D. T. Farnsworth was among the incorporators, all of whom were men. The school was closed in 1866. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 103.

1848. On January 24, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Wheeling Female Seminary in Wheeling, under the direction of a group of male trustees. It later became Wheeling Female College. In 1891, it was purchased by the Woman's Hospital Association and became Wheeling City Hospital. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia; Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 100.

1850. On March 14, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Academy of the Visitation in Wheeling. Its name was later changed to Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy. The academy, administered by the Catholic Sisters of the Visitation, was open to girls of all religions and is still in operation. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia.

1851. On March 17, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Wellsburg Female Academy in Brooke County. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia.

1856. On March 18, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Harpers Ferry Female Institute in Jefferson County, directed by a group of male trustees. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia.

1858. On January 4, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Woodburn Female Seminary Company in Morgantown, directed by a group of male trustees. Woodburn Seminary later became part of West Virginia University. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 101-102.

1858. On April 7, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act which incorporated the Lewisburg Female Institute Company in Lewisburg, Greenbrier County. The Lewisburg Female Institute later became the Greenbrier College for Women. Source: Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia.

1864. On August 6, the Sisters of the Visitation established a Catholic school in Parkersburg which eventually became the DeSales Heights Academy. Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 142.

1865. On May 18, the Wheeling Female College was incorporated in West Virginia. It replaced the Wheeling Female Institute. Statehood leader and future Congressman Chester D. Hubbard was among the incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1865. On November 30, Ida L. Reed was born near Moatsville, Barbour County. She published over 2,000 Christian hymns and wrote an autobiography, My Life Story. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 141.

1866. On February 8, the Parkersburg Female Academy was incorporated in West Virginia. Former Union Army officer and oil pioneer J. C. Rathbone was among the incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1866. On August 10, the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph was incorporated in West Virginia by the following (all secular names): Jane C. Keating, Mary P. Feeney, Honorah Sullivan, Fanny Stewart Smyth, and Sarah A. Breslin, all of Wheeling. The Congregation's main office was at St. Joseph's Hospital in Wheeling. This was the first organization in West Virginia the incorporators of which were all women. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1866. On December 7, the Charleston Institute was incorporated in West Virginia for the education of men and women. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1867. The West Virginia Legislature began establishing normal schools throughout the state to train teachers, enhancing employment opportunities for women. Normal schools for white students included Marshall in Huntington, Fairmont, West Liberty, Glenville, Concord, and Shepherd. The state appropriated funding for a black normal school at Storer College in Harpers Ferry. Storer was the only black teachers' school in the state until the establishment of the West Virginia Colored Institute at Institute and the Bluefield Colored Institute in the 1890s. All of these schools except for Storer (no longer in existence) are part of the the state college and university system today.

1868. The West Virginia Legislature passed the first Married Women's Property Act allowing married women to own property under certain circumstances. However, married women were not permitted to transfer or sell property without the written approval of their husbands. Source: Spindel, "Women's Legal Rights in West Virginia, 1863-1984," West Virginia History (1992), 30- 31.

1868. On May 30, Mrs. Francis Pierpont of Fairmont originated the holiday of Decoration Day, which later became Memorial Day. Source: Conley and Doherty, West Virginia History, 413

1869. On July 29, West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs president Bethea Allen Black was born. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 93.

1869. On December 13, the Stephenson Female Institute in Charles Town, Jefferson County. Andrew Hunter, who prosecuted John Brown, was one of the incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1870. On February 28, the governor approved an act authorizing the Young Ladies' Institute of Wheeling to confer literary degrees. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1871. On February 10, the governor approved an act authorizing the Morgantown Female Seminary to confer literary degrees. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1872. On April 22, the West Virginia Female Seminary at Union, Monroe County, was incorporated in West Virginia under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Future United States Senator Frank Hereford was one of the incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 166.

1874. On January 17, Pearl Dorsey, the first woman instructor in West Virginia farmers' institutes, was born in Marshall County. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, p. 8.

1874. On August 17, the Lewisburg Female Institute was incorporated in West Virginia. Former Confederate General John Echols and former Lieutenant Governor of Confederate Virginia Samuel Price were incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1876. On February 15, after relocating from Winchester, VA, the Baptist affiliated Broaddus Female College held its first classes in Clarksburg, Harrison County, in the National Hotel, with the Rev. E. J. Willis as president. This later became Broaddus College and eventually merged with Alderson Academy to form Alderson-Broaddus College at Philippi, Barbour County. On May 19, 1877, Broaddus Female College was incorporated in West Virginia. Statehood leader John J. Davis and future United States Senator Nathan Goff were among the incorporators, all of whom were men. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 244.

1877. Women were first enrolled at Bethany College. A preparatory department was established in 1880 and in 1883, the "Ladies Course" leading to a Ph.B. degree was created. Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 184.

1877. On February 28, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act authorizing the trustees of Brooke Academy in Brooke County to acquire property for establishment of a female seminary. Brooke Academy had been established by Joseph Doddridge in 1799. The act was approved by the governor on March 2, Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 78.

1878. On February 15, the first Baptist Women's Missionary Society in the state was organized at the Bethel Baptist Church in Oak Hill, Fayette County.

1878. On May 30, Myrtle Hall was dedicated as a women's dormitory building at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County. The building was later renamed Mosher Hall. Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 245.

1879. On June 2, the Charleston Female College was incorporated in West Virginia. According to historian Charles Ambler, the institution's existence was "short-lived." Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 281.

1881. Women replaced men as telephone operators in Wheeling. That same year, the first telephone line between Wheeling and Pittsburgh was completed.

1882. On July 4, 1882 two steamboats, the Scioto and the John Lomas, collided on the Ohio River at Follansbee, Brooke County. Later testimony revealed that a woman was at the wheel of the John Lomas. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 83.

1883. On May 21, the John Stephenson Female Seminary in Charles Town, Jefferson County, was incorporated in West Virginia. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1884. On May 14, the Randolph Female Seminary in Beverly, Randolph County, was incorporated in West Virginia. The incorporators included one woman, Esther E. Baird, a rare occurrence at the time. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1885. On February 20, by a vote of 33 to 30, the West Virginia House of Delegates defeated a bill which would have made West Virginia University a coeducational institution for men and women. After the state Senate rejected a similar bill, the faculty voted to admit women to the university in 1889. In 1891, Harriet Lyon became the first female graduate. Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 372.

1885. On April 20, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was incorporated in West Virginia by the following: A. Taylor of Wheeling Female College; Virginia M. Warren, Sarah Johnson, Emma A. Fowler, and Mary M. Wagner of Wheeling. The organization's main office was in Wheeling. The first local chapter was formed in Wheeling before 1877. The statewide WCTU was organized at an Interstate Convention in Maryland in 1883 and the first convention was held in Parkersburg in 1884. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 83.

1885. On September 15, "The West Virginia Hills" by Ellen King was published. It later became one of the official state songs. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, p. 113.

1888. On July 5, at a convention in Parkersburg, the Women's Christian Temperance Union approved the formation of a third party, the Prohibition Party, to enter candidates into the state general election.

1889. On April 19, Susan Dew Hoff of West Milford, Harrison County, passed the examination given by the State Board of Examiners for licensing as a physician. She was the first woman to be licensed by examination. Hoff could not attend medical school, but studied with her physician father and on her own. Source: Early, "Susan Dew Hoff," Missing Chapters, 4.

1891. On March 14, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act protecting the earnings of a married women from her husband. It became law without the approval of the governor on March 19. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Spindel, "Women's Legal Rights in West Virginia, 1863-1984," West Virginia History (1992), 91.

1892. The first West Virginia chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was organized in Wheeling, Ohio County. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 101.

1892. The Four O'Clock Club of Point Pleasant, Mason County, and the Woman's Club of Morgantown, Monongalia County, were organized, becoming the first documented women's clubs in West Virginia. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 89.

1893. On February 16, the governor approved an act defining the legal property and other rights of married women. On February 24, the West Virginia Legislature amended an 1891 act concerning a woman's earnings. This act stipulated that a married woman's earnings would be protected only if she lived separately from her husband. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Spindel, "Women's Legal Rights in West Virginia, 1863-1984," West Virginia History (1992), 91.

1893. On April 27, the West Virginia department of the Woman's Relief Corps, a patriotic society of women related to Union soldiers in the Civil War, was created. Its purpose was to assist the Army, perpetuate the memory of the dead, and to provide aid to the widows and orphans left behind, as well as honor Civil War nurses. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 55.

1895. A school of nursing, the first in West Virginia, opened at the Ohio County Hospital in Wheeling. Source: West Virginia History (1990), 131.

1895. The suffrage movement in West Virginia actively began with a convention in Grafton, Taylor County, during which nine clubs joined together to form the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association. During the first year, seven of the clubs went out of existence. Effland, "A Profile of Political Activists," West Virginia History (1990), 103.

1895. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) established the Florence Crittenton Home in Wheeling for unwed mothers and their babies. In the beginning, it served primarily as a refuge for prostitutes. Today, the Wheeling's Florence Crittenton Home & Services provides community home-based services in Wellsburg, Moundsville, New Martinsville, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Beckley, Martinsburg, Summersville, Romney, and Belmont County, Ohio. Source: Brennan, A Century of Service to Mothers & Babies, 4, 18.

1897. On February 16, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act forbidding physicians or dentists from administering chloroform, other anesthetics, or narcotics to women without the presence of a third person. It was approved by the governor on February 19. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1897. On February 18, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act establishing the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls. On May 5, 1899, the school opened at Industrial, Harrison County, with Elizabeth Clohan of Wheeling as superintendent. Railroad magnate Henry G. Davis donated $50,000 toward the school's construction. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature; Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 271.

1897. On July 4, many West Virginia coal miners joined Ohio and Pennsylvania striking miners in what became a nationwide walkout organized by the United Mine Workers. During this strike, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was sent into West Virginia for the first time to organize miners, delivering speeches at Monongah, Marion County, and Flemington, Taylor County.

1898. The Charleston Woman's Improvement League was organized as a member of the National Association of Colored Women. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 93.

1898. On June 2, the West Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was formed in Shepherdstown, Jefferson County. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 70.

1899. The first West Virginia chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution were organized. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 90.

1900. The West Virginia Women's Christian Temperance Union officially endorsed women's suffrage. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 83.

1900. Dr. S. P. Hatton opened the Powhatan College for Young Women in Charles Town, Jefferson County. Shortly after it closed in 1914, St. Hilda's Hall, a girls' secondary school, was opened on the site. Source: Ambler, A History of Education in West Virginia, 293.

1901. On February 19, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act requiring men to provide for the support of their wives and children. It was approved by the governor on February 20. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1904. On April 22, the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs was founded. They began operating two traveling libraries for the use of rural or mining areas. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 89.

1907. The West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs investigated the employment of children in glass and other industries in the state; they reported to the U. S. Labor Commissioner that child labor laws were not being enforced. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 89.

1908. The campaign of Mason County newspaper publisher Livia Simpson Poffenbarger was successful when Congress designated the Battle of Point Pleasant as the first battle of the American Revolution and appropriated $10,000 for a monument to be erected at the site. Poffenbarger was also an early leader of the state Daughters of the American Revolution. Historians generally reject the claim that Point Pleasant was the first battle of the Revolution. Source: Whear, "Livia Simpson Poffenbarger," Missing Chapters II, 1-21.

1908. On May 10, the first official Mother's Day service was held in St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, Taylor County, through the efforts of Anna Jarvis. In 1914, President Wilson made Mother's Day a national holiday. Source: Pomroy, "Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis," Missing Chapters II, 134-135.

1911. On February 6, the West Virginia Legislature passed three acts regarding prostitution. The first outlawed the detention of women in houses of prostitution against their will or for the purpose of paying off a debt. The second provided criminal penalties for any person procuring a woman from a house of prostitution or for intimidating or threatening a woman into working in a house of prostitution. The third provided for the punishment of any person receiving income from the prostitution of a woman or operating a house of prostitution. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1911. On February 24, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act requiring the appointment of police matrons in any town of 5,000 or more citizens. It was approved by the governor on February 25. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1911. On July 22, Hallie James Jameson informed the Marshall County Board of Education that she had just been married. The board notified Jameson she would no longer be allowed to teach music in their schools, as it was their policy to not employ married women. The West Virginia Supreme Court set a precedent by supporting Jameson and she was able to regain her job. However, in 1916, the court turned down a suit involving compensation for her two months off the job.

1915. On February 23, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act proposing an amendment to the state constitution giving women the right to vote. The act was approved by the governor on March 3. West Virginia voters, all of whom were male, defeated the female suffrage amendment in November 1916. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1917. West Virginia's first chapter of the Daughters of 1812 was formed.

1917. On February 15, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act providing a penalty for any man deserting or not providing financial support for his wife and children without just cause. It was approved by the governor on February 23. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1917. On February 23, the West Virginia Legislature passed an act establishing a mothers' pension fund to provide partial support for mothers under the following circumstances: husbands are dead, husbands have become permanently physically or mentally incapacitated for work, husbands confined in a state institution, or abandoned by husband (left with more than one child, at least one of which is under the age of 13). It became law without the approval of the governor. Source: Acts of the West Virginia Legislature.

1920. Lenna Lowe Yost became the first woman to preside over a Republican state party convention when she presided over that party's convention in West Virginia. Source: Effland, "Lenna Lowe Yost," Missing Chapters, 50-63.

1920. On February 27, the West Virginia Legislature convened for a special session on taxation. One of the issues was the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote. On March 3, the House ratified the amendment as did the Senate on March 10. West Virginia was the 34th of the 36 states needed to ratify. Source: Effland, "`Exciting Battle and Dramatic Finish': West Virginia's Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment," West Virginia History (1989), 81-84.

1921. On March 9, the Parkersburg Business and Professional Women's Club was chartered.

1922. The Quota Club, a professional and business women's club, was organized in West Virginia.

1922. The Lewisburg Seminary, which had previously been the Lewisburg Female Institute, became the Greenbrier College for Women. It closed in 1972. Source: Rice, West Virginia: A History, 250.

1922. Izetta Jewell Brown, a former actress from Washington, D.C. and widow of former Preston County Congressman William G. Brown, Jr., ran for a seat in the United States Senate. She was the first woman from south of the Mason-Dixon Line to run for the Senate. Howe, "The Status of Women's History Research in West Virginia," West Virginia History: Critical Essays on the Literature, 163.

1922. On November 22, West Virginia Cooperative Extension established the Home Industries Shop in Clarksburg, the first 4-H gift shop in the country. Source: Eagan, "West Virginia Farm Women's Clubs," Missing Chapters II, 151-164.

1923. On November 17, the West Virginia division of the American Association of University Women was chartered with branches in Huntington, Morgantown, Fairmont, and Parkersburg. The first branch had been formed in Huntington in 1908. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 86-87.

1924. In 1924, Irene E. Chilton Moats, educator from Clarksburg, Harrison County, served as the Director of Republican Activities among African-American women in West Virginia. In 1932, she was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention and served for eight years on the Advisory Council to the Board of Education.

1924. On June 7, the United States Congress passed an act establishing the only federal industrial reformatory for women in the country at Alderson, Greenbrier County. On March 4, 1925, the governor approved the Deficiency Bill, providing for construction of the prison, which received its first inmates in 1927. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 139.

1925. The College Alumnae Club of Kanawha County, Incorporated, was organized to bring together African-American female college graduates. Source: Randall, Black Past, 214-215.

1926. The West Virginia Code stated that after January 11, 1926, no person other than a physician could serve professionally as a midwife without being licensed. The State Department of Health issued midwifery licenses to applicants who were at least 21 years old, able to read and write, showed habits of cleanliness, had a diploma from a school of midwifery or verification of skills from a physician, and were of good moral character. 372 midwives were licensed in the first year of licensing. Source: Bickley, "Midwifery in West Virginia," West Virginia History (1990), 61-62.

1926. On March 11, the West Virginia Industrial Home for Colored Girls opened in Huntington under Fannie Cobb Carter. Source: Clagg, West Virginia Historical Almanac, 37.

1928. On January 10, Minnie Buckingham Harper was appointed to succeed her late husband in the House of Delegates, becoming the first African-American woman to serve in a legislative body in the United States.

1930. A Women's Christian Temperence Union for African-American women was organized in Elkins, Randolph County. The WCTU was the only major women's group to admit whites and blacks. Source: Howe, "West Virginia Women's Organizations, 1880s-1930," West Virginia History (1990), 93.

1942. In 1942, Congress passed the Servicemen's Dependents Allowance Act, authorizing payments to families of those serving in the military in World War II. In most instances, these payments were inadequate. Insufficient financial support from the federal government coupled with the shortage of employable men brought large numbers of women into the industrial work force for the first time. In West Virginia, women worked in numerous factories associated with the defense industry. One of these sites was the Electro Metallurgical Company plant at Alloy, Fayette County, which hired its first women employees on May 17, 1943. At Martinsburg's Perfection Garment Company, women also made shirts for the Navy. Twenty percent of the company's production was dedicated to the war effort. As men returned from the war in 1945, most women were forced out of the industrial work place. However, in the post-war years, women increasingly demanded equal employment opportunities. Source: Bumgardner, The Children's Home Society of West Virginia, 59; McKinney, Elkem Metals: Ninety Years of Progress in the Kanawha Valley, 37; Jenrette, "Labor-Management Conflict in the Eastern Panhandle" West Virginia History (1993), 113-114.

1948. On November 24, Mothers' Day founder Anna Jarvis died.

1951. On July 17, Democrat Elizabeth Kee of Bluefield was elected to complete the unexpired term of her husband, U.S. Representative John Kee, who died on May 8, becoming the first woman in the state's history to serve in Congress. John Kee had appointed his wife as an executive assistant in 1937. Source: West Virginia Blue Book (1952), 434-435.

1953. Virginia Mae Brown was appointed Assistant Attorney General of West Virginia, the first woman to hold that post. In 1961, she became the first woman Insurance Commissioner in the state. Brown became the first woman to head a U.S. regulatory commission in 1969, when she was named chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 73.

1953. On April 22, members of the Internaional Ladies Garment Workers Union went on strike against the Perfection Garment Company in Martinsburg, Berkeley County. The strike was settled thirteen days later after the Perfection Garment Company agreed to wage increases, vacation pay, and contributions to the health and welfare fund. Source: Doherty, Berkeley County, U.S.A., 334-335.

1956. In the November 6 election, voters approved jury service for women. West Virginia was the last state in the U.S. to allow women to serve. The initiative had been proposed by Elizabeth Simpson Drewry, the first African-American woman elected to the West Virginia Legislature. Source: West Virginia Blue Book (1957), 680-687.

1975. In the case of Jane Doe v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc., the Fourth Circuit Court struck down the West Virginia law which made abortion illegal. This was the first challenge of the state's anti-abortion law since the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld a woman's right to abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Source: Bumgardner, The Children's Home Society of West Virginia, 121.

1975. Lea Anderson became the first woman elected as president of the West Virginia University student body. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 36.

1977. In November West Virginia First Lady Sharon Rockefeller began her first term on the National Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She later headed WVEA-TV public station in Washington, D.C. Source: WSAZ-TV Newsfilm Card Index (education), WV State Archives.

1978. Pocahontas County native Louise McNeill Pease was named poet laureate of West Virginia. Her poetry collections and books include Gauley Mountain, Paradox Hill, Elderberry Flood, and The Milkweed Ladies.

1978. On October 2, the American Cyanamid Company Willow Island plant (Pleasants County) reduced the number of chemicals to which women could be exposed from 29 to 1 (lead), virtually eliminating their chances of employment. Earlier in the year, the company had implemented a fetal protection policy prohibiting women of child-bearing age from working on the production line where they were exposed to a number of chemicals. Five women chose to be sterilized to keep their jobs. From the 1940s to 1973, American Cyanamid had never hired a woman. However, due to federal pressure, the company hired 36 women between 1974 and 1976, with production increasing immediately. On October 11, 1979, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the American Cyanamid plant $10,000 for coercing women into sterilization and exposing both men and women to dangerous levels of lead. The Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International union filed a class action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the women. In 1984, federal judge Robert Bork found in favor of American Cyanamid, ruling the women had not been forced into their decisions to be sterilized. Source: Faludi, Backlash, 440-452.

1979. On February 6, Charleston native Sarah Jane Moore, convicted of attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford, was captured and returned to the women's federal penitentiary at Alderson after escaping the previous day. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, also convicted of attempting to assassinate Ford, was imprisoned at Alderson as well. Source: WSAZ-TV Newsfilm Card Index (crime), WV State Archives.

1984. In August, Mary Lou Retton of Fairmont won an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics.

1984. On October 7, an ad appeared in the New York Times supporting abortion rights for women. It was signed by a number of Roman Catholic priests and nuns, including Barbara Ferraro and Patricia Hussey of Charleston. They were later threatened with excommunication from the Catholic church. Source: Charleston Gazette, July 22, 1986, 1A.

1984. On December 21, West Virginia University player Georgeann Wells became the first woman to dunk a basketball in a college game. The ball is now in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 81.

1985. On July 1, Diane Reinhard became the first woman to serve as acting president of West Virginia University. She served for ten months following the resignation of E. Gordon Gee. After the hiring of Neil S. Bucklew as president, Reinhard returned to the post of Dean of the College of Human Resources and Education. In 1990, she was named president of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 36-37.

1988. On November 8, Margaret Workman of Charleston was elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, becoming the first woman justice. In May, she had defeated incumbent Darrell McGraw in the Democratic primary. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 37.

1990. Natalie Tennant of Fairview became the first woman chosen as West Virginia University's Mountaineer mascot despite strong objections from many students and alumni. Source: WVU Women's Centenary Project, WVU Women: The First Century, 37.

1992. On January 31, Democratic state Senator and former teacher Charlotte Pritt of Kanawha County announced she would run for governor in the 1992 election. She was defeated by incumbent Gaston Caperton in the Democratic primary. As a write-in candidate in the November general election, Pritt received 48,873 votes compared to Caperton's 368,302 votes and Republican Cleve Benedict's 240,390 votes. Source: West Virginia Blue Book (1993).

1996. On November 5, in the 1996 gubernatorial election Republican Cecil Underwood polled 320,502 votes; Democrat Charlotte Pritt 284,398; Libertarian Wallace Johnson 15,958. This was the first time in West Virginia history in which a woman was nominated for governor by one of the major political parties. In May, Pritt had defeated a slate of Democratic challengers, including Joe Manchin of Marion County, in a bitterly contested primary.


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