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.