Dr. Harriet B. Jones, 1926
96 years ago today, on August 18, 1920, the women's suffrage movement in America celebrated a big win with the ratification of 19th Amendment, which proclaimed; "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." In honor of this event, we remember Wheeling's own Dr. Harriet B. Jones, women's rights and suffrage advocate, public health crusader, and West Virginia's first licensed female physician.
Born in Ebensburg, PA and raised in Terra Alta, WV, Harriet B. Jones came to Wheeling as a young woman to study at the Wheeling Female Academy. "When I was a little girl," Jones said in an interview, "I made up my mind to be a doctor when I grew to womanhood. I had never seen a woman doctor and indeed there were none in our state."
Having had to leave the state in the 1870s to obtain her medical degree, upon her return in the 1880s, she advocated admission of women to West Virginia's colleges and university, which was finally accomplished in 1889.
Dr. Jones returned to Wheeling in 1886 and opened a small practice before leaving for a position as the assistant superintendent at the Hospital for the Insane in Weston. In 1892, she returned to Wheeling and opened a hospital for women in East Wheeling, first on 14th Street between Eoff and Jacob, and later on the corner of 15th and Jacob. Jones would, for the next 20 years, practice medicine and surgery and come to be regarded as one of Wheeling's leading doctors. "When I made an application for membership in the Ohio County Medical Society, my request gave the organization a great shock, but when the members recovered," Jones noted, "I was admitted." She would also become the first woman to be admitted to the State Medical Association.
It was also during this time that Jones became active in the West Virginia woman suffrage movement. From its inception in the 1890s until the victory of woman suffrage in 1920 Jones was a leader of the movement and was, for many years, president of the West Virginia Suffrage association.
Just four years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment prohibiting the denial of women's voting rights, in 1924, Jones was elected as a representative from Marshall County (R) to a term in the state House of Delegates. For many years, she remained an active member of the League of Women Voters.
Recognized nationally as a leader in the women's suffrage movement, Dr. Harriet B. Jones's name is inscribed on a bronze tablet at the headquarters of The League of Women Voters in Washington D.C. Hers is the only name representing the state of West Virginia. ▶ View Tablet
Dr. Jones wrote a history of the suffrage movement in the mountain state called "Woman Suffrage in West Virginia, 1900-1920," which was published posthumously in 1944.
A long-time resident of Glen Dale, Dr. Harriet Jones died at the age of 87 in 1943.
- image from “West Virginia Legislative Hand Book and Manual and Official Register” (WV Blue Book), 1926, Ohio County Public Library Archives.
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