Women in Belmont County History
Updated: Mar 31
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 an important part of 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 6, 2021.
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 gentlemen, 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 served as a delegate to the World's Press Association convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1886.
McPherson wrote for other periodicals as well as her own newspapers, contributing to Cosmopolitan magazine and Youth's Companion, among others. In 1892 she published Reullura, a collection of her own 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 Taldmadge 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 the age of 12, she moved with her parents, descendants of English Quakers, to Kansas. She was the first women in the U.S. to be elected mayor. Her nomination was a surprise (including to 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 herself 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 own 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 as 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 debated about women in politics.
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, which was 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 both size and scope of services. Additions to the hospital campus were added in four consecutive decades ultimately growing 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 having competition in the primary and general elections. She appeared on the "Johnny Carson Show," "Hee Haw" and the "Mike Douglas Show”. Paramount signed Crumbley as technical adviser for a proposed TV series based on her exploits. The tentative title was "Walking Broad". There was even a song, "The Lady Sheriff of Belmont County" written and recorded about her. You can learn more about Crumbley, the history of sheriffs in Belmont County, and the history of the area at the Belmont County Heritage Museum in St. Clairsville. Crumbley was not the first female sheriff of Belmont County. That was Mary K. Dunfee who filled in for her husband after his death while on duty in 1926. She finished out his term from 1926 to 1927. This was common at the time. The sheriff’s wife also took care of any female prisoners and served as “matron”, being responsible for feeding prisoners and staff.
May Louise Hinton-Wykle -pioneering African American nurse and educator
May Hinton Wykle (PhD, 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. There, 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 PhD 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 nurse and educator, May Wykle made it her mission to open up the field of nursing to more minorities.