As communities gear up for Women’s History Month celebrations, many reminisce about influential women who have graced their lives. From family members and friends to professionals and idols, chances are that most people have a woman that comes to mind when they think about those they love and admire. In Wheeling, things are no different, and although there are plenty of other women who have left their mark on the city, here is a list of six of Wheeling’s influential ladies throughout history.
Rebecca Harding Davis (1831–1910)
A renowned author and advocate, Rebecca Harding Davis was a woman who painted some of the harsher realities of early Wheeling life through her writing. She published stories such as “Life in the Iron Mills” (1861), Waiting for the Verdict (1868), and “Put Out of the Way” (1870), all of which spoke on dismantling systems built on harsh working conditions, racism, and the cruel treatment of those with mental illnesses.1
Eleanor Davenport Glass Caldwell left her legacy in the City of Wheeling with her establishment of the Wheeling Symphony. As an avid music lover, Caldwell organized the Wheeling Symphony Society as a significant sponsor for downtown’s Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. In addition to this feat, she was dedicated to supporting her community through continuous efforts to expand music education and campaign for women’s suffrage during her lifetime.2
Graduating from Meharry Medical College and passing her medical exams in 1910, Julia Katherine Pronty Davis, earned her title as Dr. Pronty. In that same year, Dr. Pronty came to Wheeling to work as a physician from home and at the Ohio Valley General Hospital where she delivered numerous babies into the community. Along with this, she gave a medical address for “Health Week” in 1915 and was a member of the Lady’s Auxiliary of Post 89.3
Judith A. Herndon (1941–1980)
Judith A. Herndon was an intensely educated woman who received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1963 and a Juris Doctor degree in 1967. She is often recognized for her influences in Wheeling as both a lawyer and a legislator, holding office as a member of the House of Delegates and as a state senator. While in office, she was an advocate for issues like tax reform and sexual assault legislation.4
Alga Myrtle Wade Hamlin, MD (1900–1983)
Dr. Alga Myrtle Wade Hamlin was another woman who graduated from Meharry Medical College and worked as a physician and specialist for children and women in Wheeling and its surrounding areas. Additionally, she gave her own “Health Week” address for the Blue Triangle Branch of the YWCA and often conducted health clinics for the community.5
Subscribe to Weelunk
Ann Prince Thomas (1938–2019)
Ann Prince Thomas moved to Wheeling as an infant, graduated from Wheeling High School in 1956 and moved on to be the first Black graduate from the Ohio Valley General Hospital’s School of Nursing in 1959. She then proceeded to work in the nursing field for nearly 50 years and raised her own family in the Wheeling area.6
Although this list hardly scratches the surface of Wheeling’s history, nor the full extent of these women’s contributions to Wheeling, there is no denying the significance of those on it. Do you recognize any of these Wheeling women or know of any others who you would like to celebrate? To learn more about some of the women of Wheeling, take our quiz to find out which famous Wheeling woman you are most like!Be sure to share your results on social media to show off your excitement for Women’s History Month this year.
• Alexis (Alex) Walton was raised across the Ohio River in Martins Ferry, OH. She is currently a senior at West Liberty University with majors in professional writing and literature and a minor in creative writing. She has worked as a writing consultant, proofreader, and bookseller, and is currently interning with Wheeling Heritage and Weelunk. When she’s not busy with academics, she can be found playing video games, watching slasher films, and cuddling with her cat and ball python, Marcy and Jasper.
1 “Wheeling Hall of Fame: Rebecca Harding Davis.” Ohio County Public Library. https://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/history/wheeling-hall-of-fame-rebecca-harding-davis-/4156
2 “Wheeling Hall of Fame: Eleanor Caldwell”. Ohio County Public Library. https://www.ohiocountylibrary.org/history/wheeling-hall-of-fame-eleanor-caldwell/4146