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  • Writer's pictureCathryn Stanley

Celebrating Women in Belmont County History

In honor of Women's History Month, we are highlighting the women who have shaped the history of Belmont County. From plucky pioneer heroines to modern women breaking barriers in their fields, these ladies are essential to Belmont County's story. You can learn more about these women and other influential natives of Belmont County by visiting the museum when it reopens for the season on April 4, 2024.

Betty Zane- Revolutionary War Heroine

Elizabeth "Betty" Zane McLaughlin Clark (July 19, 1765 – August 23, 1823) was a heroine of the Revolutionary War on the American frontier. She was the daughter of William Andrew Zane and Nancy Ann (née Nolan) Zane and the sister of Ebenezer Zane, Silas Zane, Jonathan Zane, Isaac Zane, and Andrew Zane. On September 11, 1782, the Zane family was under siege in Fort Henry by Native American allies of the British. During the siege, while Betty was loading a Kentucky rifle, her father was wounded and fell from the top of the fort right in front of her. The captain of the fort said, "We have lost two men, one Mr. Zane, and another gentleman, and we need black gunpowder." Betty's brother carelessly left gunpowder at their house. She ran 40 to 50 yards to retrieve gunpowder, then returned safely.

The Zane family later settled in what became Martins Ferry, across the Ohio River from Wheeling, and played an important role during Ohio's formative years.

You can see a statue of the young Betty Zane (erected with funds raised by school children in 1928) in Walnut Grove Cemetery in Martins Ferry and learn more about her at the Sedgwick House Museum in Martins Ferry, where items that belonged to the Zane family can be seen.

Lydia Ann Starr Hunter McPherson -Newspaper Editor and Publisher

Lydia Ann Starr Hunter McPherson (born August 11, 1827, in Warnock) was an American newspaper editor. She founded a newspaper in Caddo, Oklahoma, the Caddo International News, making her the first woman publisher of a newspaper in Oklahoma. Two of her sons did the printing for her.

In 1877, McPherson moved across the Red River to Whitesboro, Texas, where she founded a weekly newspaper, the Whitesboro Democrat. It was the first newspaper in Texas published by a woman. It subsequently moved to Sherman, Texas, and became a daily under the name Sherman Democrat.

In 1881 she became one of the first three women to join the State Press Association of Texas and was elected corresponding secretary. She was a delegate to the World's Press Association convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1886.

McPherson wrote for other periodicals and her newspapers, contributing to Cosmopolitan magazine and Youth's Companion, among others. In 1892 she published Reullura, a collection of her verse.

Mary Maurice - Silent Movie Actress

The "Grand Old Lady" of early silent films, veteran touring company actress Mary Maurice (born Birch on November 15, 1844, in Morristown, Ohio), spent nearly her entire 1910-1918 screen career with the New York-based Vitagraph company where, on and off the screen, she "mothered" everyone from the Talmadge sisters to Jean, "the Vitagraph Dog." She was especially effective as James Morrison's mother in the studio's great preparedness film The Battle Cry for Peace (1915). She appeared in 139 films between 1909 and 1918.

Susanna Salter - Politician and Activist

Susanna M. Salter was born Susanna Kinsey on March 2, 1860, near Lamira in Belmont County. At 12, she moved to Kansas with her parents, descendants of English Quakers. She was the first woman in the U.S. to be elected mayor. Her nomination was a surprise (including Salter herself) because her name had been placed on a slate of candidates as a prank by a group of men against women in politics, hoping to secure a loss that would humiliate women and discourage them from running. Because candidates did not have to be made public before election day, Salter did not know she was on the ballot before the polls opened. On election day, she agreed to accept the office if elected. The Women's Christian Temperance Union abandoned its candidate, and members voted for Salter. She also received backing from the local Republican Party, helping to secure her election by a two-thirds majority. She served one term as mayor of Argonia, Kansas, becoming the first woman elected mayor and one of the first women elected to any political office in the United States. Although her term was uneventful, her election drew national attention and sparked a debate about women in politics.

Ruth (back) is shown in this photo with nursing students Sharon Weber and Shelva Truax in the new west wing nurse's station.

Ruth Brant Maguire - Nurse and Educator

A native of Pennsylvania, Ruth came to Martins Ferry in 1923 after becoming a registered nurse. Initially, her duties were as floor supervisor before advancing to assistant superintendent and eventually administrator on October 1, 1925. Ruth held the administrator position for 45 years.

In 1925, Ruth organized the Martins Ferry Hospital School of Nursing, later named in her honor. The school graduated more than 500 nurses before its doors closed in 1965. Items from the school once housed in the basement of EORH are now on display at the Heritage Museum.

During her administration, the hospital grew in size and scope of services. Additions to the hospital campus were made in four consecutive decades, ultimately increasing from 30 to 200 beds.

Also known for her commitment to civic activities, Ruth was a founding member of the Betty Zane Frontier Days Steering Committee and served on the city's Board of Health. She also founded the Ruth Brant School of Nursing Alumni Association.

Kathy Crumbley - Belmont County Sheriff

Kathy Crumbley, elected Belmont County Sheriff in 1976, was America's first female to win a sheriff's race while competing in the primary and general elections. She appeared on the "Johnny Carson Show," "Hee Haw," and "The Mike Douglas Show.” Paramount signed Crumbley as a technical adviser for a proposed TV series based on her exploits. The tentative title was "Walking Broad." A song, "The Lady Sheriff of Belmont County," was written and recorded about her. You can learn more about Crumbley, the history of sheriffs in Belmont County, and the history o the area at the Belmont County Heritage Museum in St. Clairsville. Crumbley was not the first female sheriff of Belmont County. May K. Dunfee filled in for her husband after his death while on duty in 1926. She finished his term from 1926 to 1927. This was common at the time. The sheriff’s wife cared for female prisoners and served as “matron,” responsible for feeding prisoners and staff.

May Louise Hinton-Wykle -Pioneering Nurse and Educator

May Hinton Wykle (Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FGSA) is an American nurse, gerontologist, nursing educator, researcher, and the first African American Marvin E. and Ruth Durr Denekas Endowed Chair at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing of Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. In 2011 she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. Her honors and accolades are too numerous to mention here.

She was born February 11, 1934, in Martins Ferry, Ohio, and graduated from Mount Pleasant High School. She earned her nursing diploma in 1956 at the Ruth Brant School of Nursing in Martins Ferry, where she was the school's first African American student.

After graduating, Wykle worked as a staff nurse at the Cleveland Psychiatric Institute. She gained experience as a head nurse and, later, a supervisor. In 1962, she pursued her bachelor's degree in nursing, then returned to the Cleveland Psychiatric Institute as an instructor and director of nursing education. In 1969, Wykle went back to Case Western Reserve University to earn her master's degree in psychiatric nursing and her Ph.D. in nursing, where her teachers were so impressed with her they asked her to join the faculty. She has been a faculty member there since. During her career as a nurse and educator, May Wykle made it her mission to open up the field of nursing to more minorities.

Rachel Lloyd - Chemist

Born in 1839 in Flushing to a Quaker couple, Lloyd was the first American woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry and the first woman author in a major chemistry journal.

She studied at the Harvard Summer School and received her doctorate from the University of Zurich in 1886. She worked as a professor of chemistry and head of the chemistry department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work determining the sucrose concentration of sugar beets helped establish a commercial sugar industry in Nebraska. In 1891, she became the first regularly admitted female member of the American Chemical Society. On October 1, 2014, the Society designated her research and professional contributions to chemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

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