Notable Indiana County Women Part II

Agnes Hunger – The Indiana Progress reported on August 28, 1901, that “Mademoisella Zeno” of Pittsburgh, a native of Indiana County, would make a balloon ascension at the Indiana County Fair on August 29. The next week, on September 4, the Progress said her real name was Agnes Hunger, a daughter of Martin Hunger, and that she gave trapeze exhibitions while the balloon rose to 4,000 feet and then parachuted back to earth.

She certainly was an unusual woman for her time.  It is unfortunate that nothing more is known of her.  Her father was said to have lived in the Elderton area.

Zoe Allison Johnston was a physician, and served as president of the American Medical Women’s Association form 1943-44.  She was noted as an X-ray and radium therapy specialist and served a term as president of the American Radium Society.

Johnston graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and passed the Pennsylvania State Medical Board examination in 1909.  After 12 years as a general practitioner in Tarentum, she set up an office in the Jenkins Arcade in Pittsburgh.

In 1941, she was president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Zonta International.  In 1944, her fellow physicians elected her president of the Allegheny County Medical Society.

She was athe daughter of Dr. T.B. Alllison and Eva Farnsworth.  Farnsworth was a registered nurse and served as superintendent of Indiana Hospital for a number of years beginning in June 1922.

Johnston was born in Indiana in 1889.  She married Charles M. Johnston, a Pittsburgh attorney, and they had one son.  She died on May 7, 1961.

Hannah Sharp Leason is a good example of a “profile of courage.”   She endured grief, numerous hardships and physical handicaps during Indiana County’s pioneer years.

Born in Cumberland County on February 4, 1784, she was the oldest child of Captain Andrew and Ann Woods Sharp.  Her father was a Revolutionary soldier.

As an infant, she and her parents accompanied Fergus Moorhead and others to Indiana County in 1784.  They settled near Shelocta.

When Leason was 6 years old, she lost her hearing but soon learned to read lips, and it is said, “It was truly wonderful with what exactness she could carry on a conversation in this way.”

In 1794, her father decided to move to Kentucky, and the family’s belongings were placed on a raft at Campbell’s Mills near Black Lick.  The group was attacked by a large party of Indians near Apollo.  Her father was severely wounded.  With great difficulty, they reached Pittsburgh where he lingered in pain for 40 days and died.

“Many a time,” she said, “I went and covered myself up and wept…when the doctor was dressing his wounds.”

The day he was buried, her mother was unable to go, so the little deaf girl, 10 years old, and a younger sister were the only family members who accompanied him to the grave.

Afterward, the mother took her children back to their old home in Cumberland County, where they went to school and Leason acquired a good command of the English language.  About 1797, they returned to Indiana County and settled on their old place.

In 1802, at about 18 years old, she married Robert Leason.  They moved to Butler County and raised a family of 16 children.  She and her husband were together 60 years, but she never heard his or any of their children’s voices.

In 1865, she wrote a beautiful letter to a nephew telling of her terrible ordeal in 1794 and her father’s death.  Despite this, she said, “I never had a spite and the Indians.  They were very badly treated.”

Leason died in 1869, the last of her family, at the age of 85.

Jane E. Leonard was preceptress at Indiana Normal School for more than 46 years from its founding in 1875 until she retired in 1921.  When she came to the new school, she was also the first teacher of history and geography.

Although she tended to be somewhat spinsterish and overprotective of the young ladies in her care, she was nevertheless fondly remembered by thousands of students as “Aunt Jane.”

She was honored by the dedication of Leonard Hall on February 23, 1905, which, although it burned in 1952, was rebuilt and rededicated.  The building has since been demolished to make room for the new College of Natural Sciences building.

The Leonard Literary Society was organized in 1927, and in May 1931 the Jane E. Leonard Memorial Student Loan Fund was established.  Her portrait painting in John Sutton Hall was presented at the 25th anniversary celebration of Indiana Normal School on July 3, 1900.

Leonard was born on December 27, 1840, in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County, a daughter of Robert and Lydia Wilson Leonard.

After attending the schools of her vicinity and the Clearfield Academy, she began teaching at the age of 15.  She graduated from Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster County in the early 1860s and, after teaching in that county awhile, joined the Millersville faculty as teacher of mathematics and history from 1868 until she came to Indiana in 1875.  While at Indiana, she attended summer sessions at Chautauqua Institution, completed a course of study and graduated.  In 1891, she traveled to Europe.

She was a staunch advocate of woman’s suffrage and supported the women’s club movement when it was initiated in Indiana County in 1912.  She was active in civic and political life, serving as chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee and president of the Indiana County Democratic Women Voters League.

She was chairman of the local Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fund devoted to the advancement of Wilsonian ideals.  She was one of the founders of the Ingleside Club of Indiana.  In 1922, she was the Democratic candidate for Congress, one of the first two women in Pennsylvania to seek national political office, and, although unsuccessful, received a large vote in an overwhelmingly Republican district.

After her retirement in 1921, she was told she could continue to live in her apartment in John Sutton Hall, and there she died in her sleep on April 6, 1924.  She is buried in Curwensville, Clearfield County.

Verna M. Zartman Bennett was the first woman in Pennsylvania to chair a county political party in 1962.

She was born in Bell Township, Clearfield County on July 6, 1902, and was a controversial figure during her political career on account of a serious split in Republican ranks which occurred during her term.

She served as deputy secretary of the Commonwealth, 1966-71; was elected a delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention and was politically active in numerous other ways.

In earlier life, she had been a school teacher for 25 years.  She was also active in civic and community life and held posts and memberships in many organizations.  She married Boyd D. Bennett and they had one child. She died on December 17, 1985.

Eva Griffith Thompson was born about 1842-43 in Somerset County, a daughter of Abner and Elizabeth Cooper Griffith. She was assistant superintendent of Indiana County Schools, 1880-84, and an editor of the Indiana News beginning from about October 1889 until 1894.

She graduated from Steubenville Ohio Seminary and began teaching in Lowman School, East Mahoning Township, for $14 a month and taught afterward in many others county schools.

She was a leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and served a term as president of the Indiana County unit.  In March 1888, she and Jane E. Leonard attended the Women’s Suffrage International Congress in Washington, D.C.

Thompson’s first husband, Andrew B. Allison, was killed February 11, 1862, during the Civil War. She married Sylvester C. Thompson on October 14, 1867, and they had two children, Guy C. Thompson and Rue Cetta who married J.C. Blair.

In later life, Thompson resided in Trafford where she died February 6, 1925.

Elizabeth Uncapher was the first Indiana County woman to obtain a medical degree.

She was born in Blacklick Township on September 4, 1856, attended the local schools of her area and graduated from Indiana Normal School with the class of 1879.  She then went to the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, where she received the MD degree.

For a while she practiced in Allegheny County and then moved to Houston, Texas.

Dr. Uncapher was not married.

Her parents were Daniel and Elzabeth Keener Uncapher.  She was the youngest of the family.  She died on June 18, 1908, and was buried in the old Livermore Cemetery.

Mary Florence Wallace was a history teacher at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for 30 years, 1938-68, Florence Wallace was honored when Wallace Hall at IUP was dedicated in 1973.

She was born in East Liverpool, Ohio on February 7, 1893, and afterward moved to Indiana County with her parents, Alphoen and Luella E. Seanor Wallace.  Here, she attended the model school at Indiana Normal School and took college preparatory courses.  She went on to Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she received the AB degree and to Columbia University, New York City, which conferred on her the MA degree.

Wallace was a charter member and the first president of the Indiana Chapter, American Association of University Women.  She sponsored the Indiana State Teachers College International Relations Club and was instrumental in brining the national IRC to the campus and obtained Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt as a speaker.

She was honored by the Indiana Business and Professional Women as Woman of the Year and was named professor emeritus by IUP when she retired.

She died on December 18, 1980.

Dorothy Melsena Warner was born in Center Township on January 20, 1903.  She was the daughter of Harry S. and Effie A. Moore Warner.

She graduated from Elders Ridge High School and from Indiana State Teachers College in 1937.  In 1941, she received the master of education degree at The Pennsylvania State University.

Warner began her career teaching in elementary schools but soon was teaching mentally retarded children and rose to supervisor of special educational programs in various counties, including Indiana County, 1951-59, and ended in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.

When she retired in 1967, she received a certificate of appreciation “in grateful acknowledgement of 30 years of important service.”  She died on February 2, 1978.

Sue E. Hawxhurst Williard was known as “Aunty Sue” to several generations of children and young girls.  Sue E. Williard, in 1897, founded and administrated the Girls’ Industrial Home located at 11th and Washington Streets in Indiana.  In 1921, she was the founder and administrator of the Williard Children’s Home near Indian Haven.

She was born in Babylon, Long Island, NY on January 10, 1843 to Solomon and Ann Jackson Hawxhurst, and moved with her parents to Indiana County in the 1850s.

Her husband, Robert Williard, died in 1885 and she continued to conduct the Williard Planing Mill, at the corner of Philadelphia and Tenth Streets in Indiana, for some years until it was sold in the 1890s.

She became active in the Pennsylvania Children’s Aid Society and was treasurer and president of the Indiana County unit from 1892-93.  The Girls’ Industrial Home was financed by the state board of directors of the Children’s Aid Society to serve the Western Pennsylvania district with Williard as chairman of the committee in charge.  Here, during the years 1897-1933, some 850 underprivileged girls between the ages of eight and 16 were educated, trained and placed in good homes.

Williard also had charge of the Williard Children’s Home, which was opened by Indiana County in 1921 for orphans and homeless children.  She continued as administrator until 1935, but the home was maintained by the county until 1965.

She had a key role in the establishment of the Indiana Hospital.  As early as 1903, she was chairman of an association of citizens interested in establishing a hospital.  The matter languished for a while until 1912 when she again called a meeting, the outcome of which was the establishment of the hospital in 1914.  She was a member of the hospital board until July 6, 1935.

Williard had no children of her own, but she had the proud honor of being “mother” to more than 1,000 orphan children and underprivileged young girls.

Norah E. Zink was born in Richmond, Indiana, a daughter of John and Laura L. Heiser Zink.

She was honored in 1976 when Zink Hall was dedicated at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she had been a member of the geography department for 26 years.  When she was named professor emeritus.

Dr. Zink received a BA degree from the University of Utah and afterward taught art in the schools of Utah.  She received the master’s degree in geography from Columbia University, New York City, and a PhD from the University of Chicago.  After teaching at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pittsburgh and New Haven State College, she came to Indiana State Teachers College in 1936.

She traveled extensively and visited every continent except Antarctica.  She was particularly interested in Nigeria and made several visits to aid in establishing a school and hospital there.  The school was named in her honor and several children were named Norah.

She expended more than $60,000 of her own funds to assist foreign students attending IUP.  She also supported the Chevy Chase Community Center and offered cash prizes for the best flower and vegetable gardens in Chevy Chase.

On November 18, 1971, a testimonial dinner was held in her honor, at which time she received citations and awards from the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Pennsylvania State Education Association, University of Chicago, WDAD, Indiana Borough and IUP.  Governor Milton Shapp designated the day, “Norah E. Zink Day.”  The Pennsylvania House and Senate passed resolutions of commendation and the Indiana County commissioners named her an honorary county commissioner.

Dr. Zink died May 17, 1978.

Notable Indiana County Women

March is Women’s History month, so throughout the month of March we are going to feature some of Indiana County’s notable women who in the past made their mark.  Many of these women lived in what was then a “man’s world” – a world where they had only limited rights and were barred from voting, from holding public office and from many private positions as well.

Jennie M. Ackerman, for whom Ackerman Hall on the IUP campus was named.  Ackerman Hall was dedicated in 1964 about two years after Miss Ackerman’s death.  For 34 years, 1904-38, she was principal of the Model School (now Wilson Hall).

She was born on March 22, 1874, in New York state along the Hudson River and received her education there.

After her retirement in 1938, she continued to be active another 10 years as dean of women at Drew Seminary until 1948, when she moved to Coral Gables, Florida where she passed away in 1962.

Dollie Walker Ayers was not only the first woman to serve as register and recorder of Indiana County, but also was the first woman to hold any county elective office.  Her husband, Walter Ayers, who was elected Register & Recorder in 1924, but died after six months in office.  He was succeeded by his wife after being appointed to the post by Judge Langham in July 1924.  She was then elected for a full term receiving 8965 votes to her opponent, W.D. Peterman’s 4513.  She served until 1929 when she lost her bid for reelection.

She was born April 18, 1878, a daughter of Samuel and Josephine Leasure Walker.

Mrs. Ayers was active in the community as president of the Indiana County Council of Republican Women and of the Spanish American War Veterans Auxiliary.

She was married to Walter H. Ayers and they raised six children.  She died August 7, 1953.

Mary Ella Boucher Black served as president of the Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union for 18 years, 1929-47, during a time when the WTCU was much stronger and more influential than now.

She was born on July 26, 1878, on a farm near Dixonville.  The daughter of Samuel and Mary Catherine Bence Boucher, she received her education in the rural schools and at the Indiana Normal School.

On July 4, 1900, she married Harry W. Black.  They had two children.  She died January 16, 1947.

Margaret Clark Campbell was born about 1783, a daughter of Captain James Clark, a Revolutionary soldier, and Barbara Sanderson.

She married Charles Campbell, prominent in Indiana County’s early history as a county trustee, militia general and associate judge.

Josiah Copley remembered her as “a very superior lady.”  As a young lad carrying the mail over long distances on horseback, he often stayed at the Campbell home and was treated kindly.

Mrs. Campbell had an independent mind and was not afraid to assert herself.  On one occasion during Judge Campbell’s prolonged absence, she had some log which he had cut for a barn made instead into a fine house with linings and joists of planed and beaded cherry.  There were three fireplaces, each with carved and beaded mantels, four windows with 15 glass panes each and fine mouldings throughout.

Joshua Gilpin was a guest in this home in October 189 and wrote in his journal that Mrs. Campbell was “a large but very handsome woman tho the mother of 16 children.  12 of whom are alive and most of them married…she is also a woman of great management not only in the education of their children which is conducted far beyond what could be expected…but in the conduct of her husband’s estate – Gen’l Campbell possesses here a farm of 600 acres with a corn and saw mills and distillery, he has also large landed property in the neighborhood and elsewhere which together with his public employments take him much from home so that the business of the farm and family devolve chiefly on Mrs. Campbell and are conducted so as in no degree to suffer by his absence…

Miss Jane his daughter came into the room soon after and we were surprized to find a young lady of 18 very beautiful, with a fine form and complexion of an English woman and in dress and manners more suited to the standard of Philadelphia than of these western forests.”

Mrs. Campbell was a woman exceptional ability for her time, refined, intelligent and educated.  She died on Christmas Day 1916. Her daughter Jane later married Dr. Jonathan French, Indiana’s first resident physician.

Sarah Row Christy was born in Maryland on January 15, 1864 to Dr. Herman and Mary Gompers Row.  For many years she was a leader among local women in the organization of women’s clubs including the first Indiana County Congress of Women’s Clubs at a meeting in the First (Calvary) Presbyterian Church on June 10, 1912.

She was educated in the Indiana public schools and graduated from the Indiana Normal School in 1883, then went on to the Oswego, NY, Training and Normal School where she graduated in 1887.

She was a teacher in Indiana and at numerous other places, took courses at Columbia University and the University of Southern California, prepared primary and intermediate readers and contributed articles to educational magazines.

In 1916, she wrote an article for the Indiana Progress describing the beginnings of the woman’s club movement in Indiana County.  In 1935, her article “Fugitive Slaves in Indiana County” was published in the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine.

She was president of the New Century Club of Indiana and active in the Ingleside Club, Western Pennsylvania Historical Society Indiana Chapter, International Relations Study Group, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Indiana Normal School Alumni Association, and League of Nations Association.  She was also a member of the Girl Scout Council of Indiana.

Sarah Row married Harry C. Christy in 1882.  Because of his declining health, they moved to Santa Barbra, California, where he died on September 13, 1917. Afterward, she returned to Indiana where she died in 1936.  It was reported in the Indiana Progress on April 3, 1918: “It was largely through her leadership and energies that the splendid Red Cross organization was established in the county last year, and the patriotic devotion which she gave in establishing auxiliaries and launching and directing the initial work won for her the proud distinction of the pioneer worker in Red Cross in Indiana County…”

Margaret Cook, it was reported by the Indiana Progress on September 22, 1909, that she was the pastor of the Cherryhill Brethren Church, Cherryhill Township, along the trolley line to Clymer.  So far as is known, she appears to have been the first woman to serve as pastor of an Indiana County church.

Mary L. Esch was registrar of IUP for 51 years from 1916 to July 1, 1966, during which time she saw the institution evolve from a private normal school to a state normal school, to a state teachers college, to a state college and finally a university.  After her retirement she was named registrar emeritus.  On October, 1973, Esch Hall was dedicated to her memory.

She was born July 24, 1895 in Brushvalley Township, to George W. and Louise Miller Esch.

After attending the Indiana Public schools, she graduated from Indiana Normal School in 1915.  Immediately afterward she became secretary to the registrar and within a year was named registrar.

In 1965, she was presented the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.  She did much to organize the General Alumni Association and served many years as executive secretary.  Her article in 1962, “My Forty-Seven Years at Indiana,” was a valuable contribution to university history.

She was listed in Who’s Who of American Women and the Dictionary of International Biography.

Miss Esch died suddley on December 17, 1971 while on a visit to London, England.

Olive Gilson Kingman Folger was affectionately known to several generations of Indiana college students as “Ma Folger” because of her 26 years as dietician, 1934-60 at the institution.  Folger Dining Hall was dedicated in her honor on October 28, 1972.

She was born on April 7, 1891 in York, Maine, to Samuel and Florence Simpson Kingman.  In 1913, she married Edward Milton Folger, who died about 1948.  They had one daughter.

Mrs. Folger died April 21, 1981, at the age of 90.

Margaret Jane Tomb Parker Graham made her mark in county history by founding Armagh in 1792.

Her first husband was William Parker, son of Lord Parker of Belfast, Ulster, Northern Ireland.

After Parker’s death, she fell in love with James Graham, the caretaker of the Parker estate, but because of social pressures against the match, she sold her interests, married Graham and sailed for America with several brothers, sisters, and friends – in all, 27 persons.  Upon arriving in Indiana County, they found a thin, scrubby growth of oaks on an elevation and so gave the name Armagh to their new settlement, meaning “field on a hill.”

She was born Margaret Tomb about 1753, to William Tomb.  She had four children to Parker and two to Graham. She died May 9, 1827.

A Woman in Business – Adeline Hawxhurst

Adeline Hawxhurst’s career was almost synonymous with the growth of the Indiana Hospital.  She began working there in 1915, when suffragists were still avidly campaigning for women’s right to vote and had not yet even begun to agitate for equal employment opportunities.  The hospital itself was barely a year old.  In 1967, fifty-two years later, Miss Hawxhurst was still employed there.  Her career, spanning over half a century, illustrates how, even before the feminist thrust of the 1960s, a young local girl might rise to a position of considerable distinction, namely administrator of a vital community health center.

Adeline Hawxhurst

Adeline Hawxhurst is a native Indianan with roots going well back into the County’s past.  During the Civil War years her father’s family, under the leadership of her great-grandfather Soloman Hawxhurst, moved to Indiana from Long Island.  At the time the family operated both a paper mill off Indian Springs Road and a farm where they grew potatoes and corn, maintained a beautiful apple orchard, and raised horses. It was a small farm, but it was conveniently situated close to Indiana.  In fact, its location was familiar to many since it was adjacent to the old Hospital Road when that was the main route out of town. Route 119 simply didn’t exist in those days, and, instead of the now well-traveled auto road, railroads, and the old trolleys to Blairsville had rights-of-way over the western part of the family property.  Her father continued to live on the farm, although he himself worked at the local glass factory as a mixer.  On her mother’s side, too, her family was deeply rooted in Indiana County’s past.  Her mother, Belle Pierce, was born in Chambersville, where her father was a cobbler before he moved to Indiana.  Adeline herself grew up on the farm with her parents and loved it, but as she grew older she knew she didn’t want to look to the farm for a livelihood.

Finding an alternative, however, was not easy in those pre-World War I days.  Examples of successful career women were rare nationally much less in Indiana County.  Furthermore, except in the fields of teaching and nursing, opportunities were severely limited by the view that a woman’s place was in the home.  Fortunately, Miss Hawxhurst’s aunt, Mrs. Sue Willard, had definite ideas about careers for women.  She was already renowned locally as a social reformer (the County’s orphanage was eventually named the Willard Home in her honor). Perhaps already sensing the changes and challenges of a world opening to women, Sue Willard was convinced that women should work.  Of the opportunities then available, she “just thought office work would be the most respectable.”  Taking her advice seriously, Adeline Hawxhurst, after completing her basic education at the Model School, decided to attend Indiana Normal School because there she could enroll in the business courses.  For two years she received extensive training in bookkeeping and mathematics – both of which served her well once she started her work career in 1915 at age eighteen.

It was like a happy dream come true.  Her first job, as it turned out, was very near her home, at Indiana Hospital, which at that time was still often called the miner’s hospital or the coal company hospital.  Her aunt, who was on the Board of Directors then, heard of a vacancy there and told her niece to go for an interview.  Miss Hawxhurst was immediately hired as a bookkeeper.  However, to her surprise, she found herself totally alone in charge of a tiny office in the Iselin Building, now part of the north wing of the hospital.  Just out of school, she was responsible for providing information, admitting patients, receiving payments, and answering the telephone at what was then an already antiquated switchboard covering the five or six hospital phones.

Miss Hawxhurst recalls that admitting patients was simple yet efficient in those early days before computerized cards and nationwide insurance companies.  A new patient would be asked to pay in advance for a week’s room and board – then about $2.50 a day.  Miners, or subscription patients as they were sometimes called, merely showed their card proving that fifty cents per month had been deducted from their paycheck, and the company picked up the bill.  Ruefully shaking her head, Miss Hawxhurst particularly remembers the many accidents – mostly back injuries – which brought old-time miners to the hospital.  “The accidents – you can’t imagine how terrible they were.”  Hospital authorities, she recalls, quickly accommodated victims of any mine disaster.  As she says, “Everyone was very sympathetic when something happened in the mines.  That was a terrible thing in Indiana County.”  Yet those early days of admitting patients were not without their lighter moments, and remembering the innocence of her youth, she recalls that “the most amazing thing happened when I was so young I hardly knew what it was.  They sent me up to the third floor to admit a woman in labor.  So I got her name and everything.  I said, “Can you tell me how I can get in touch with your husband?’ and she said, ‘You can’t. I ain’t got one.’”

But gradually the school-girlishness was lost, and Adeline Hawxhurst became a business woman and a competent one at that.  She learned the routine and demands of the hospital and soon felt familiar with the personnel.  Gradually she got to know the doctors, and she remembers how, especially in those early days, they exhibited great kindness both to her and the patients.  As for the nurses, then dressed in stiffly starched uniforms that went down to the floor and covering tightly laced shoes, she “always made friends with them … although as the hospital expanded that became harder and harder to do.” From being a “more or less shy child” she gradually learned to handle people and adjust to new situations.  However, for all this work, pay was low, as it generally was for women in those days – a fact Miss Hawxhurst remembers with considerable consternation.  With something akin to disbelief she was that her starting salary was five dollars a week.

Fortunately, even from the beginning she felt that her job had many rewards.  IN fact, as she notes, “I got to like it so much I was glad that I had gotten into something like that.”  Obviously she had correctly chosen a business oriented career rather than one in nursing or teaching, neither of which had ever appealed to her temperament.  Finally her diligence had its rewards.  In 1929, she became office manager.  From 1939 on she progressed to positions as assistant superintendent, and then acting administrator when the regular administrator, Miss Lillian Hollohan, was ill.  Eventually, in 1944, she was offered the top position of hospital administrator.  It was a significant honor for as Mrs. Martha Copelli, once Miss Hawxhurst’s secretary and now administrative secretary and director of public relations, notes, “Very few women achieved this position in those days.”

Perhaps it is significant that Adeline Hawxhurst made her greatest career advancement during World War II, when women were being recognized nationally for their abilities and service to the nation.  In unprecedented numbers, women had entered the labor force and the armed services.  Certainly their abilities could not be denied and many thought their right to equal advancement should be protected. Many Democratic and Republican leaders at the national level urged the adoption of an equal rights amendment.  However, the power of traditional female stereotypes reasserted itself as Americans entered a period Betty Friedan has dubbed “the feminine mystique.”  But for Adeline Hawxhurst this was the very period when her executive abilities were being tested to their utmost, and with over twenty years of practical experience behind her, she was still far from complacent about her work.

Taking her new responsibility very seriously, she informed members of the hospital board that she not only intended to get around and meet people, but also regularly would attend seminars and institutes devoted to hospital expansion and new concepts of health care.  She took special courses in hospital administration at the University of Chicago.  As Miss Hawxhurst put it, “I didn’t want to be somebody that’s here because she was here when she was young.”  With this in mind Miss Hawxhurst in 1954 applied for admission to the American College of Hospital Administrators and, after an obligatory waiting period of two years, took its exam.  Remembering distinctly her nervousness as she sat in Atlantic City for the day-long exam and the follow-up oral interview, she notes that all aspects of hospital administration were covered.  Although she felt some anxiety during the interview because she could not guess what one of the examiners was thinking, she nevertheless remarks in retrospect, “It all went just wonderfully.”

The Indiana Hospital board and her friends were quick to applaud her achievement.  Happily recalling their enthusiasm, she notes, “They were so proud of me.” And it was obvious that they had every confidence in her.  As Martha Copelli observes, in spite of society’s reluctance to advance women to positions of authority in those days, there was never any doubt about her qualifications or abilities for “everyone looked up to her even though she was a woman.”  Miss Hawxhurst now possessed the complete authority of an executive officer, indeed, just as much authority as any man might have had.  And as her secretary recalls with a  smile, “Miss Hawxhurst was noted for speaking out.”  Asked whether she then really had run the hospital, she replied with her usual candor, “Oh, indeed I did.” Once Adeline Hawxhurst had efficiently managed a tiny office.  As administrator she just as efficiently took charge of the administration and physical plant of a large hospital complex.  Adeline Hawxhurst at age eighteen had no idea how far her career would take her.  In 1915, most women did not even begin to hope for such professional advancement, and she had been no exception.  If only her aunt could have seen it.  Sue Willard, herself so foreseeing about the status of women, would have been proud to have seen her own niece’s achievement.  But although her career could easily serve as an inspiration for feminists, it never occurred to her at the time that her success was unusual or even enviable – at least, as she comments, not until men began to seriously compete for such positions themselves.

As top administrator, Miss Hawxhurst’s duties were varied, so varied that she had accumulated considerable knowledge and diverse expertise.  She had to oversee the kitchen, the heating plant, housekeeping, fire safety, and the business office.  It was her job to “recognize when things weren’t being done” and “to see that everything was safe.”  When a problem arose, Miss Hawxhurst was called in whether it was the extraordinary, the mundane, or even the slightly comical, such as one situation in the 1950s when a few local field mice in almost Disneylike fashion decided to slip into the hospital through its unlatched doors.

From the very start of her tenure as top administrator she confronted difficult problems.  During the war years Indiana Hospital had to endure the same rationing program as the rest of the population.  Overseeing the general conduct of the kitchen service, Miss Hawxhurst encouraged the regular use of the hospital’s vegetable farm located behind the buildings.  Crises, too, had to be met.  After the Lucerne mine explosion on February 9, 1954, Adeline Hawxhurst coordinated efforts of hospital employees and professional personnel.  It is significant that the hospital received praise from both the coal company and miners’ families.

As administrator Miss Hawxhurst was significant in some permanent efforts as well. Much of her work went into the planning and completion of the 1956 wing of the hospital.  Afterward she initiated the still operative guide service manned by volunteers.  But especially, as Mrs. Copelli remarks, “Her teaching and procedures stayed, and she instilled the importance of documentation and reports.”  Hospital finances, too, received much of her attention.  This included the admittedly difficult and thankless task of negotiating with contractors as well as with hospital employees, who were, she readily admits, underpaid for years.  Another often thankless task involved her efforts to initiate social security coverage for all employees at the hospital in the early 1950s.  Needing two-thirds support of her workers, she personally addressed the employees to convince them to vote in the program.  She believed it was especially important for married women to be able to maintain such protection, but she recalls many irate husbands of nurses who angrily phoned her to protest any plan which would require their working wives to make individual contributions from their salary.

Often legal difficulties required Miss Hawxhurst’s care.  She had general responsibility for protecting patients’ hospital records.  In emergencies, she had to help evaluate problems of admitting children who were underage.  As administrator, Miss Hawxhurst found that some of the more serious problems often followed her home.  A patient wandered away, and she was called in.  A patient fell from a hospital window, and Miss Hawxhurst had to be alerted.

As one might well imagine Adeline Hawxhurst became something of a legend during her tenure in office.  Her rather tall, commanding stature and powerful position increased professionalism among subordinates throughout the hospital.  They were all too aware that she might enter any department day or night.  As Mrs. Copelli remarks, “If she had given an order to be carried out, there wasn’t a second time she had to come back to you.”  “They’d see Hawxie coming down the hall and everyone looked alert.”  Perhaps illustrative of her reputation was an incident involving three young local men who had broken a hospital rule while dating student nurses.  Advised to go to Miss Hawxhurst’s office, they later left with very sober expressions.  Mrs. Copelli remembers “the look on their faces as they left. [I don’t] think any of them ever dated anyone from the hospital again.”  But though Miss Hawxhurst had to be stern at times, Mrs. Copelli is quick to add that the warmth was there “for she is the most lovely person.” Her “concern for employees and their families” was always obvious.

As administrator, Miss Hawxhurst had to handle any and all situations from the impersonality of account books to direct confrontation with individuals.  In over fifty years at Indiana Hospital, Miss Hawxhurst had seen and coped with just about every conceivable administrative problem and had proven the competence and devotedness of a woman in an executive position.  You might even say the hospital directors had found her invaluable, for after her retirement in 1965, the Hospital Board kept calling her requesting, “Will you come back and help us out?”  Finally, she decided to return, as she put it “for two months which stretched on for one year.”

Looking back on her successful career, Miss Hawxhurst could justly feel satisfied with her work and with the growth of Indiana Hospital of which she had been so much a part.  At her retirement dinner in 1965, four hundred guests came to honor her.  In recognition of her fifty years of service to the hospital, the Board of Directors established a yearly Adeline Hawxhurst Award for a graduating student nurse.  But perhaps nothing was so illustrative of the demanding office she had filled so well as the theme chosen by the toastmaster, Richard Seifert.  Himself a hospital administrator at Lee Hospital in Johnstown, he came to the lectern carrying a basketful of occupational hats – hard-hat, fireman, cook, workman, and even a nurse’s cap.  He reminded the audience that a fine hospital administrator must wear many hats to get the job done.  It was obvious to all that Adeline Hawxhurst, the young girl from the small farm across the road, had worn many hats during her half-century career, and she had worn them well.

Miss Hawxhurst passed away on July 6, 1982 at the age of 85 and was laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, PA, which is located near the Hospital where she worked and devoted her career.

Working Women in Indiana County

“In those days, women didn’t go out to work.”  This statement, often made when speaking of the first half of the twentieth century, was for many quite true.  It was a time when women were less likely to be involved in unions than in clubs; significantly, these were concerned less with labor and political activities than social etiquette and hygiene.  For example, the Indiana Evening Gazette reported on a 1905 club meeting where women discussed the problems of “expectorating on the streets” of Indiana.  Newspaper advertisements directed at women then were less concerned with promoting the image of a competent workwoman than with beauty and how to get rid of “sunken eyes and hallow cheeks…and the ravages of dyspepsia.”

jane leonard
Jane E. Leonard – Preceptress at Indiana Normal School

While much of this public image is true, underlying the illusion of women at leisure was the basic reality that many if not most women had to work, especially before marriage or in the widowhood.  The penury of some might be dramatized by tragic news headlines as “Woman Killed on Railroad.”  In December 1905, a 35 year old childless widow of one week was struck and killed instantly while picking coal along railroad tracks near her New Florence home.  In that very year another news release reported the tragic suicide of an unemployed manicurist, a 25 year old Blairsville “girl” [woman] who drank carbolic acid in her room at the YMCA. Of course these were exceptions, but there were many, many women who had to find work, and only a few could find employment in the two occupations generally believed to be most desirable for young women – teaching and nursing.

Other occupations were available to women in the Indiana area. Young girls from the farming community or from town often found plentiful work as cooks, waitresses, chambermaids, upstairs girls and laundry girls.  Though hard and heavy, this work was quite respectable female employment. For many years, the Normal School and the town of Indiana itself offered a large number of such jobs.  Insurance maps of the town dating from the turn of the century attest to the existence of hotels and restaurants for both mealtime and overnight guests, and at these women could find work.  Occasionally some women tested their entrepreneurial talents if they and their husbands were proprietors.  Mr. Long, a native Indianian, recalls with obvious admiration how his mother once helped in directing the West Indiana House, later the Houck Hotel.  While his father took care of the office, buying merchandise and paying bills, his mother interviewed, hired and directed the chambermaids, waitresses and cooks.  Her managerial duties were demanding for the business was extensive.  Mr. Long remembers that “…if they didn’t have 100 at noon, they thought it was a poor day.”

Work as governesses and live-in maids also existed, but its desirability naturally varied according to the attitude of individual employers.  While at times a live-in maid could be treated as a family member, she could also find it was lonely, demanding, and tiring work.  One Indiana woman remembers cooking and making bread for an entire family, while simultaneously acting as a governess for eight children, including infants.  Years later she still remembers the consternation of her employer when she asked for so high a salary – $8.00 a week.  Seamstress skill also offered extremely good employment for those with the necessary skills.  Some women were so expert that they undertook the task of outfitting entire families, perhaps even spending a week or two in homes of well to do citizens of Indiana until the season’s outfitting was done.

Less skilled jobs as “Hello Girls” or telephone operators were equally acceptable for women.  “Hello Girls” were aware that they had important jobs in maintaining communications, especially in emergencies.  When in 1904 the gas in Indiana was shut off for two hours, the news reported “Hello Girls Swamped.”  All of Indiana’s 200 switchboard plugs were flooded with calls of inquiry, the board becoming “…a veritable cobweb of connections.”  For a long time telephone operators also sounded the town fire alarm.  Mrs. Huber of Fulton Run Road, for a time an operator during the 1920s, recalls with amusement how lines were always jammed with calls from the curious asking for information about the fire.

Most of these jobs fell into traditional patterns of occupation, but occasionally even at the turn of the century female stereotypes were shattered much to the surprise of the community.  In 1904, a Miss M. Margaretta Hodge, a resident of Blairsville, was certified to practice pharmacy.  The following winter a news story in the Indiana Evening Gazette praised Mrs. DeVers, a Blairsville rural delivery carrier who was sometimes assisted by her daughter.  The article commended her for she had not missed a single day’s delivery throughout a very severe winter.  Expending the ultimate praise, the article noted that she made “…as good time as her male colleagues.”

head nurse
Head nurse’s private apartment – Indiana Normal School

As the Indiana business community expanded during the 1910s new jobs as clerks and salesgirls became available to women.  Stores such as Bon Ton, Troutmans, Luxenbergs, and McCrorys placed help wanted ads for “girls,” often specifically demanding “good girls.”  In fact in 1917 one ad for a female clerk required that she still be living at home with her parents in Indiana.  Heavier factory work also employed women of the area but only on a limited scale.  Women worked at the Dye Works, the Indiana Candy works, the Diamond Glass Company, the Macaroni Factory, the Indiana Steam Laundry, and King Razor Manufacturing Company, all during the 1910s.

Surprisingly, World War I made no perceptible impact on either the labor market or on attitudes about working women.  At most, news items urged women to do volunteer work to help the war effort.  On May 10, 1917 the Indiana Evening Gazette printed an article encouraging “girls” to make sacrifices for their country.  Here was no call for bravery, or even the study of nursing, or perhaps the replacement of draftees in the labor market.  Instead the article praised one young woman for rejecting five proposals of marriage and then encouraging her beaus to join the service.  The final admonition, “It isn’t fair to remain idle….Every woman worthy of the name will offer her services.”  Now was a call for service without pay.

While the postwar period, especially the 1920s, is touted as an era of economic and political emancipation for women, locally there appeared to be little change in basic attitudes.  The short dresses and bobbed hair of women of the county projected the image of the modern female, but both men and women continued to view women’s work as, at best, a temporary situation filling the hiatus between school and marriage.  However, while the county job market underwent no dramatic change, some companies such as the Diamond Glass Company, King Leather Company and the Indiana Textile Mills did need an increasing supply of working women.

For forty years the glass company in Indiana had been absorbing women into its work force.  During World War I, glass production had boomed.  In the 1920s the Diamond Glass Company employed almost 100 women, or girls as they were then called.  Women inspected the glass, polished, painted, and packed the product which Indianians still remember with great pride.  One former Indiana resident remembers the summer months when she and other youngsters walked across the fields from Wayne Avenue just to watch the young ladies at the factory.  Each woman with a small turn-table in front of her decorated glass with pretty leaves and flowers.  Unfortunately, this employment ended abruptly in 1931 when fire ravaged the plant.  If men found it hard to replace their jobs in those depression years, it was extremely difficult for women.  Some area employers openly discouraged married women and those under eighteen years of age from seeking jobs which men might otherwise take.

Another long standing company, the King Leather Factory, supplied much of the growing market for female workers in the 1920s.  In operation since 1910 it had produced a variety of leather items ranging from money belts to pocketbooks employing primarily women.  In the decade following the war approximately 50 to 75 women were employed at its barn-like factory on North 10th Street.  Only three men worked there; one owned the company and the other two were supervisors.  It was essentially women who produced the product.  On the lower level of the plant where the leather was stored, cutting machines were operated.  On the upper level the process was divided into different rooms where women operated electric sewing machines, stamped the product with gold lettering, and then sorted and packed the final product.

Women learned the different jobs quickly, even without past experience.  As Mrs. Zellman of Ernest remembers, even the sewing “…didn’t take much training.”  As in most firms of the time, few women aspired to managerial work, but those who had long been at the factory were sometimes assigned to supervise the training and work of the younger girls.

The atmosphere at the factory was described by a former worker as “…just like a family.”  Much credit for this was attributed to Mr. King who gave treats to the women at holidays, even joining them in song during those festive times.  In addition to the paternal atmosphere, a pleasant lunch break also stimulated the feeling of togetherness.  A newly widowed woman who lived near the factory began selling vegetable soup and crackers in her own home.  It soon became so popular that instead of bringing lunches, many women ate at her house.  They enjoyed her expanding menu of baked beans and sandwiches, as well as her hospitality.

The newest job opportunity of the Post World War I period was at what longtime residents still call the silk mill, the Indiana Textile Mill, which began operating in the late 1920s.  Probably influenced by the changing market of the Flapper Era which revealed women’s legs, silk mill produced top quality, high fashion stockings.  Unlike today’s stretch stockings, the high fashion stocking was sewn from separately woven pieces and made exactly to the size and shape of the leg.  In this company, as in the Leather Factory, the basic work force was women employed as seamers, loopers, and inspectors.  Business was so good at the silk mill that it operated on three shifts.  Former employees estimate each shift consisted of about 75 to 100 people, ¾ of them women.  Employees enjoyed working there too and felt that job conditions were good in spite of minor problems such as cotton dust from threads.  Though it was an exception for anyone to develop an allergic reaction to the silk itself, it could occur.  At least one woman’s hands became so sensitive to the material that they actually began to bleed, requiring profuse use of ointment every evening.  In spite of the pain, this woman continued to work at the silk mill for she had a family to support.

World War II dramatically reshaped the attitude of many Indianians, male and female, towards working women.  Suddenly, women were encouraged to work in civilian and especially in defense industries.  They entered the work force with renewed self-esteem for as one former defense industry supervisor notes, “They knew they were needed.”  In fact, women were so much in demand that companies such as Acme Dye in Latrobe provided buses to transport women from Indiana and Clymer to its Latrobe factory where they worked with explosive powders and bullets.

In Indiana County itself, defense industry work was soon underway at Federal Labs in Tunnelton, and at Indiana on Indian Springs Road and at the newly opened plant near South 13th Street, in the same building that had previously housed the silk mill.  Work plans for the South 13th Street plant illustrate the new trends at Federal Labs which moved quickly to mobilize the female labor force.  As William Durno, a long time superintendent there notes, the company immediately began “…gearing up for the high speed production.”  Original plans called for one shift of 64 “girls” and five men plus about 6 guards and some government employed inspectors who were usually women.  Soon this was expanded to a three shift operation.  Women worked on the production line, mixed and handled explosives and assembled hand grenades.  They did everything which once only men had done, unless restricted by state law.

shorthand students
Shorthand students at commercial college during World War I.

Indiana women quickly learned of the new opportunities available at Federal Labs and as William Durno smilingly recalls, “If they walked in breathing, we hired them.”  As far as testing goes there was only one primary question, “Are you afraid?”  A timid person was a hazard.  However, during World War II, women maintained a good safety record.  In retrospect, women don’t remember trying to conform to a Rosie the Riveter image.  It was just common sense to wear overalls and wrap one’s hair in a bandanna.  All jewelry was expressly forbidden – static electricity would set off explosives.  One person remarked that it could be difficult to convince some women to take off sentimental jewelry such as wedding rings.  Most interviewees remember that workers were well aware of hazards and quickly complied with safety regulations.  A couple of Indiana women recalled an incident in which one worker let wisps of hair show only to lose some hair and even skin when the hair got caught in the machinery.  An accident such as this was an exception.  Throughout the course of the war, there were no major injuries in Indiana County war industries.

Besides convincing both men and women of the abilities of working women, the war years were responsible for other attitudinal changes.  A new consciousness you might say, had been raised and new expectations developed.  One satisfying aspect of work was the new sense of camaraderie among the women.  Mrs. Goral of Indiana remembers that when her mother worked at a defense plant the factory women associated more even during off hours.  Another more practical change resulted in new perceptions of unions.

Many local women who worked in the early period had expressed some hostility to unions.  They perceived union leaders as either troublemakers or meddlers.  Yet the women who had become involved in the large scale concerns of war industries often discovered that tan active union was a necessary ally.

Even more significant than the satisfactions of new interests and friendships outside the home was the impact of the paycheck itself.  For many women this was the first time extra cash filled their pocketbooks and as Mrs. Ila Murdick comments, it may not have been a great deal of money “…but it was big for them.”  In fact some women dared to suggest that the monetary motivation, not patriotism, was of paramount significance at that time.  As Mrs. Mabel McQuown, herself a former defense industry employee, remarks on the primary motivation of the women, “For most it was the money.”

Yet, in this picture, basic patriotism was not to be discounted.  Though women in the county were working in different jobs and in larger numbers than ever before, their ultimate goal was the war’s end and return of the soldiers.  Again and again patriotism is mentioned as the common denominator among them.  When the war ended they knew they would be out of a job.  As one former war worker said, “I don’t think anyone felt bad about losing a job.  They were happy that the war was over.”  Mrs. Carrolton Philippi of Marion Center remembers a story of one Indiana County woman who took a job replacing a man.  She used to joke that when he returned she would gladly give up her job and then marry the returning soldier.  That was exactly what happened.

For many women giving up their jobs was achieved just as smoothly and as happily. But there were others who felt differently.  They hoped to continue to work somewhere, somehow.  Unquestionably, the 1940s had altered the consciousness of Indiana Countians just as it had nationally.  The former attitude that women should work only before marriage or in widowhood had clearly diminished, to be replaced by a new appreciation of what women could contribute to the labor force.  Surely, a contemporary might report of that period if questioned “Yes, a lot more women went to work in those days.”

Who was Jane Leonard?

Jane Leonard
March is women’s history month and we want to showcase some notable women from Indiana County.  One of those women was very influential to the Indiana community, coming here to teach at the Indiana State Normal School in 1875, Jane Elizabeth Leonard.

Jane was born on December 27, 1840 to Robert and Lydia Wilson Leonard in Clearfield County.  She furthered her education by attending Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster County, PA and upon graduation joined their faculty from 1868 to 1875 teaching History and Geography.  In 1875, Ms. Leonard accepted a position at the Indiana State Normal School, arriving in on May 18, 1875.  She had an apartment and office in what is now John Sutton Hall.  She taught history, geography, and English.  She had also served a Preceptress.  After her retirement in 1921 she became the Dean of Women.

Jane Leonard officially retired on July 1, 1921, but she continued to reside in John Sutton Hall; which her residence there became a center for returning alumni, who aptly named her “Aunt Jane.”  Not only was Jane a teacher and mentor, but she also actively supported women’s suffrage, chairing the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee and the Women Voters League.  At age 81, she ran for Congress to represent Indiana County in 1922, using her campaign to challenge women to be involved in politics.  That same year, one of her former students, Sarah “Sadie” McCune Gallaher, ISNS Class of 1888, was one of eight women elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.


Leonard Hall postcard from HGSIC postcard collection

In 1903, the ISNS Board of Trustees named the Jane E. Leonard Hall, which was located near the Oak Grove and was destroyed by fire in 1952, and the current Leonard Hall opened in 1954.  The final classes were held in Leonard Hall in the Fall of 2015 and the building is slated for demolition in the next year.  It is this month that we honor the influential women of Indiana County, starting with “Aunt Jane” Leonard.  If you have any stories that you have heard about Jane Leonard or memories of Leonard Hall we would love to hear from you in the comments below.