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.