Harriet B. Jones

Morgantown Post
November 13, 1937

People of State Owe Much to Dr. Harriet B. Jones

First Woman To Be Doctor In The State

Served in Legislature - Pioneered in Fight Against Tuberculosis

Eighty-one years old and in the late stages of a long and honorable career in medicine, statecraft, politics, and public welfare, Dr. Harriet B. Jones, referred to many times in no overstatement as "West Virginia's foremost woman," is not content to let the memories of a brilliant life impair her visions for the future.

Not satisfied is she to rest upon the laurels she earned as West Virginia's first woman physician, as the first woman to serve in the State Legislature, as the founder of numerous hospitals and welfare institutions, and as a vigorous pioneer in the fight against tuberculosis.

Dr. Jones lives in a modest home in Glendale, Marshall County. She lives simply and quietly and is very happy. In June, 1936, she celebrated her eightieth birthday. Her friends in the First Presbyterian Church at Moundsville gave a party in her honor. Four days later she was off for Cleveland to attend the Republican National Convention.

She has retired from the practice of her chosen profession - medicine. Likewise, she isn't as physically active in many of her varied avocations. But now, as ever, she is a keen observer of political fortunes and many are the public office aspirants who beat paths to her door for advice.

Founded Four State Institutions

Long after this generation has passed there will remain monuments to the untiring efforts of this woman in the form of the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls at Salem, the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Terra Alta, the West Virginia Children's Home at Elkins, and the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium for the Colored. She was instrumental in the founding of all of them.

Harriet B. Jones was born June 3, 1856, in Ebensburg, Pa. Her father, John P. Jones, came to this country from Wales in 1838 and married Hannah E. Rogers, also of Welsh descent. Five children, of whom Harriet was the eldest, were born to them.

When Harriet was six years old, the family moved to Cranberry Summit, Va., which is now Terra Alta. This was in May, 1861, and West Virginia was created out of Virginia in the next month.

Schooling opportunities in that mountainous region were few so at the age of 12 the girl was shipped off to Wheeling to enter the Wheeling Female Seminary, located on what is now the site of the Ohio Valley General Hospital, one of the State's foremost medical institutions.

Had Early Interest In Medical Career

Graduating in 1875, she then took a four-year Chautauqua Course. Early in life an ambition for a medical career had been formulated so it is not surprising to find that the next notation in her educational biography is her graduation from the Batimore Women's Medical College with the degree of doctor of medicine.

Dr. Jones took postgraduate work in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago before embarking upon the practice of medicine in Wheeling in 1886.

Two years as a general practitioner were followed by three years and a half at Weston as assistant superintendent at the State Hospital for the Insane.

Returning to Wheeling, Dr. Jones opened a hospital for women. Two years later, she constructed a new building, enlarged her equipment and set up a hospital which thrived for 20 years. During this time she practiced medicine and surgery and was regarded as one of Wheeling's leading doctors.

She has lived at Glendale since giving up the hospital.

Interspersed with her medical practice and her hospital management were the endeavors for which she is best known.

Included among these are her agitation to have created the four institutions named above, her anti-tuberculosis work, her literary efforts, her service in the Legislature, and her general interests in politics.

Attended Twenty Legislative Sessions

While practicing medicine, Dr. Jones attended 20 consecutive sessions of the Legislature as a lobbyist. She broke precedent by making a successful race for Delegate in 1924 and she was re-elected for the following term.

Always she has been a tower of political strength in her home community, and a few years ago one of her ambitions which dated to the days of the fight for woman suffrage was fulfilled when every single woman in Glendale went to the polls for a Presidential election.

Dr. Jones's Legislative lobbying efforts were concerned principally with the approval of measures setting up the institutions she founded. She spent six years in her fight for an industrial school for girls. Finally success came, and in 1897 the Legislature appropriated $10,000. The same year a petition for an institution of this purpose was presented and acted upon by the Legislature. A board of governors was set up which held its first meeting in Clarksburg and elected Dr. Jones president. She held this position 12 years.

Salem was selected as the site for the home. Active in the plans for its construction, Dr. Jones insisted that the institution should not be made like a prison but that each girl should have her own room and individual decoration opportunities.

The first building was completed in May, 1899, and, apprpriately enough, was named Jones Cottage. This structure now is used as the administration building and has been enlarged to accommodate 40 girls in addition. Subsequent buildings have been added until now the home is regarded as one of the best of the State-owned institutions.

Provides Home for Delinquent Girls

The purpose of the home is to take in charge delinquent and incorrigible girls who will not be controlled by their parents or guardians, who will not attend school, or who have fallen into a course of waywardness.

A few years ago, the girls at Salem crocheted a beautiful bedspread for Dr. Jones. Many of them she has never seen. Her visits to the institution have been rare in recent years but her contributions to the home will be well known to every inmate for years to come.

An early interest was taken by Dr. Jones in the anti-tuberculosis movement. She and a Jewish rabbi set up the first tuberculosis clinic in Wheeling. It was located on the present site of the Chaplane Hotel. She was executive secretary of the West Virginia Tuberculosis Association of 10 years and was the first president of the Ohio County association.

During that time, Dr. Jones lectured in every county in West Virginia and in every high school, church, and other public hall within reach. She and Miss Frances McMahone had a five-month tour through 21 counties and gave illustrated lectures on tuberculosis. Thousands heard her talks.

The pair traveled in one of the early Fords, which had to be cranked by hand. There was no filling stations at that time and they fixed all their own tires and carried their gasoline and oil in drums from the country stores. In those days the village blacksmiths doubled in brass as automobile mechanics.

Had to Travel on Unimproved Roads

The lack of motoring facilities faced by Dr. Jones and Miss McMahone extended to the roads on which they had to travel. There were virtually no paved surfaces and in many cases hub-deep mud and rocky byways had to be negotiated.

This pioneer tour had its effect upon statehouse circles. In 1912 the Legislature appropriated $9,900 for an educational campaign on tuberculosis and this was the signal for Dr. Jones to take to the road again. She was instrumental in having the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company lend the State a railroad car which had been reconditioned and equipped with an exhibit furnished by the Phipps Institute of Philadelphia.

Dr. Truman Gillespie was employed to make the tour, explaining the exhibit and lecturing at all points visited. The car traveled over every railroad line in the State, the party being transported free by all the roads, including the coal lines.

Generally Dr. Jones went ahead of the car to lecture in communities which could not be reached by railroad. It was estimated that more than 100,000 persons visited the car and that 200,000 pieces of anti-tuberculosis literature were distributed. The car went into 33 counties and 1333 towns. Dr. Jones visited 164 towns, spoke 624 times in schools, gave 102 lectures before adult audiences, and addressed 16 county school teachers' institutes.

In almost as lengthy lobbying as was required to get the girls' home at Salem, it took four years for Dr. Jones to persuade the Legislature to set up the tuberculosis sanitarium at Terra Alta. It was established in 1911 and opened for the reception of patients in Jan. 1913. Since that time, many new buildings have been added, the most recent being a handsome hospital which was completed last summer.

Four Years Required To Get Sanitarium

Four years also were required for agitation to bring about the setting up of the tuberculosis sanitarium for Negroes. Finally, in 1917 the Legislature appropriated $40,000. The sanitarium was opened for patients in 1919.

In half this time, Dr. Jones brought about the establishment of the children's home at Elkins. Through her efforts, the institution was opened in 1911. By a Legislative act of 1917, it was placed under the management of the State Board of Control.

All the while, this remarkable woman was active in other fields. Traveling widely, she gained an intimate knowledge of geographical, cultural, and scientific features of all parts of the United States and many countries of Europe. One of her trips abroad, in 1913, was made especially to see the Passion Play.

Her interest in travel dated to her childhood, and in later years she organized what are known as the junior and senior travel clubs for boys in her home community of Glendale. Each club meets at two-week intervals from September to May at Dr. Jones's home. She conducts the meetings and tells the boys of her visits to various countries.

So numerous and varied were her other activities that her influence has been felt, probably, in more walks of life than that of any other person in the history of West Virginia.

Served on State Nurses Board

She pioneered the admission of women to State institutions of higher learning, conducted the first 'sex hygene' literatures to be given in State schools, directed the sale of tuberculosis seals for many years from her home in Glendale, served a dozen years on the State examining board for nurses, has been a State officer of the W. C. T. U. for many years, pioneered health examinations for school children, was a charter member and one of the founders of the first literary club in Wheeling, and was one of the first supporters of the school playground movement.

Dr. Jones has written a number of books, including the following:

"Registration, Primary, and General Election Law," "Facts that Every Intelligent Voter Should Know About the Government of West Virginia," "The Health Laws of West Virginia," "The Prevalence of Tuberculosis and the Danger of Infection," and "Introductory Parliamentary Law."

So active was she in the fight for women sufferage that when in 1930 the League of Women Voters erected a tablet in Washington, D. D., in honor of the leaders in the movement her name was enscribed upon it. Dr. Jones is the only West Virginian who was so honored.

Now she is living a quiet life in Glendale. That is, it is quiet in comparison to her strenuous activity of yesteryear. Her health is good and she does her own housework, including gardening and canning vegetables and the like.

Flower Garden Is Beauty Spot

Her flower garden is one of the beauty spots of Marshall County, containing many beautiful and in some cases rare specimens.

Dr. Jones is a talented musician. She has played the piano since childhood and has a keen appreciation of good music.

Of the five children born to Mr. and Mrs. John P. Jones, three are now living. One of Dr. Jones's sisters, Mrs. Adeline White, resides at Terra Alta. Another, Mrs. Charles A. Rinard, lives in Kentland, Ky. She visits both of them frequently.

Many have been the contributions of this woman. "She is West Virginia's Susan B. Anothony," declared Mrs. John B. Garden of Wheeling in a testimonial upon the occasion of Dr. Jones's eightieth birthday.

"I consider her the most outstanding woman of the State, who blazed a trail and made possible many of the blessings which we women enjoy now," Mrs. Garden continued. "To her, and to those who labored with her in those early years, we owe a debt of gratitude and love for their faithful work, their unselfishness, their vision, and their high ideals."


West Virginia Archives and History