Courtesy of The Ohio County Public Library.

Wheeling’s Mount de Chantal and Its Famous Alumni

One of Wheeling’s most well-known educational institutes was the historic all-girls school Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy. The school was created by Rev. Richard V. Whelan who invited eight Visitation Sisters from Baltimore to open an all-girls school. It opened its doors in 1848 and was originally called the Wheeling Female Academy. The school eventually switched buildings and was then renamed Mount de Chantal in honor of Saint Jane de Chantal, who was the co-founder of the Visitation Order. 

Mount de Chantal was renowned for its fine arts and academic programs. “The Mount” – as it is often referred to – was a boarding school until 1982 and in the following years enrollment declined substantially and on May 31, 2008, the last class graduated, and the school closed after 160 years. The school was later purchased and listed as an Endangered Property by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia in 2011. Despite this, the school was destroyed in November of the same year.1 

Over the 160 years that the school was in operation, many extraordinary women came through the school’s doors and went on to be notable alumni. Two of Mount de Chantal’s alumni went on to marry governors and become the first ladies of West Virginia, using their platforms to engage in their own civic pursuits. Another became one of the first women to serve on the West Virginia Senate. Another became a famous artist, and the fifth became a famous singer and Broadway actress. These five women became some of the best-known alumni of Mount de Chantal and despite how different their lives were, they each learned skills that helped them succeed in their respective career fields. While there were likely many more Mount alumni who have gone through history unnoticed, these were the five women who stood out from the rest. 

Carrie Watson Fleming

Carrie Watson Fleming was born on April 29, 1844, and was the daughter of coal operators.2 She attended Mount de Chantal and went on to marry future Governor of West Virginia Aretas B. Fleming. The couple had one child, a daughter named Gypsy Fleming.3  Fleming served as First Lady of West Virginia from 1890 to 1893, when her service was cut short due to election controversy. After leaving office, the Flemings returned to Fairmont where she went on to play a large role in Fairmont’s religious, cultural, and civic activities.4 Carrie Watson Fleming passed away on July 19, 1931, at the age of 87 in Fairmont, WV. 

Carrie Watson Fleming.

Edna Hall Scott Kump

Edna Hall Scott Kump was born on April 18, 1887, in Beverly, Randolph, West Virginia, near Elkins. She attended Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy before marrying Herman G. Kump and becoming the First Lady of West Virginia as the Governor’s wife and serving from 1933 to 1937. She continued her predecessor’s legacy of working with outdoor gardens, and she enjoyed horseback riding at her family farm.5 Kump had seven children, five of them being girls and two were boys. The family returned to Elkins after Governor Kump left office.6 She died on January 19, 1957, at the age of sixty-nine.

Edna Hall Scott Kump (photo courtesy of West Virginia & Regional History Center).

Judith Herndon

Judith Herndon was born on June 5, 1941, and she attended St. Michael’s Grade School before moving on to Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy. After graduating from Mount de Chantal, she attended Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia for two years before transferring to Duke University, where she graduated with a bachelor of arts in economics in 1963. She then attended Northwestern University School of Law before again transferring to West Virginia University College of Law and received her Juris Doctor degree in 1967.7 After graduating, she worked as a tax attorney for her father at his law firm before she began her political career in 1970 when she joined the House of Delegates. Herndon joined the State Senate in 1974 and was the only woman senator during her time in office. Her political career focused on tax reform, sunset legislation, sexual assault legislation, and trying to check bureaucratic government agencies.8 She died on November 19, 1980 from cancer at the age of 39.9

Judith Herndon (photo courtesy of Ohio County Public Library).

Virginia B. Evans

Virginia B. Evans was born on June 5, 1894, in Moundsville, WV. She became famous for her impressionist paintings and her art deco glasswork, and is said to be one of the best artists of the 20th century. She attended Mount de Chantal, where she received early instruction in art before graduating in 1914. She then continued her art education at Carnegie Institute’s School of Fine Arts in nearby Pittsburgh, at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts summer school at Chester Springs, and at the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation on Long Island, NY.10

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Evans was well-traveled and visited Europe four times to study art and paint her surroundings. Evans often traveled alone, much to society’s dismay, and she focused more on her career as an artist and less on what society thought was proper. Evan’s work was displayed throughout the region and the nation, with multiple solo exhibitions at various places across the country –  including a show at Oglebay Institute in 1968.11 Evans then expanded her artistic skills to glass work, where she worked for the Imperial Glass Company and incorporated Asian art styles such as dragons and butterflies into her glass collection.12  Evans eventually moved to Florida in 1957 where she took up painting again before moving back to Moundsville in 1974. She died at the age of 89 on March 23, 1983.

Virginia B. Evans, The Yellow Lampshade (photo courtesy West Virginia University).

Oriska Worden

Oriska Worden was born on July 13, 1868 in Cadiz, Ohio. Her father was a disabled Civil War veteran, her mother was a physician and orthopedic surgeon, and her uncle was a renowned Civil War naval hero, Admiral Worden.13 She attended Mount de Chantal, where she studied the arts and was talented in both music and languages.14 She went on to study singing at Michigan State Normal Conservatory of Music in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she graduated in 1892.15 Worden then traveled to Paris to continue her music studies before returning to the United States.

She was a talented singer and soon became an actress as well, having roles in multiple Broadway plays and operas. Worden had three husbands during her life, with the most memorable being Detroit millionaire Charles Glover. Their marriage did not last long, and she was reported to have left three weeks after the wedding due to having to live with Charles’s distasteful mother.16 It was after this that Worden traveled to Paris, and during her time there Charles divorced her without her knowledge. After returning to the United States, she sued him and his parents. The scandal made front-page news across the country due to her popularity in show business.17 Worden also briefly taught voice students at various institutes and conservatories throughout her time in show business before entering into the costuming department.18 Oriska Worden died on October 1, 1954, in New York at the age of 86. 

Despite the differences in these women, their most formative years were spent at Mount de Chantal. While they might not have known each other, they all were extraordinary women who created a legacy for the girls who came after them at school. While Mount de Chantal doesn’t exist anymore, these women’s stories do, and they will continue to inspire women across West Virginia for years to come.

Women’s education and Mt. de Chantal are discussed in the last episode of our latest podcast, Herstory. Paula Hartman Sikora, a former educator at Mount de Chantal, reflects on her experience teaching at the Mount and the journey to opening Sikora Montessori School. 


The last episode of Herstory is out now. Listen here on Weelunk, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

• Anna Griffith is a Senior majoring in English Rhetoric and Writing with a double minor in Creative Writing and Marketing. She is a founding member of Threshold and was the Public Relations Manager during her Sophomore and Junior year. She is continuing her PR position during her Senior year in addition to being Editor-in-Chief. After graduation, Anna hopes to attend a master’s program and eventually work in publishing or as a librarian.


1 “Market Street Dye House, 1849 .” Ohio County Public Library Digital Collection. Accessed March 4, 2024.

2 Fabrics Galore. “A Complete Guide to Calico Fabric.”,cotton%27%20for%20the%20same%20reaso

3 “J. L. Stifel & Sons Calico Works.” Ohio County Public Library Digital Collection. Accessed March 4, 2024.

4 Ibid.

5 Scientific American. “A Western Silk Factory.”

6 “Wheeling Silk Manufactory, 1849.” Ohio County Public Library Digital Collection. Accessed March 4, 2024.

7 Rotenstein, David S. “Tanneries.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 05 November 2010. Web. 04 March 2024.

8 “Tanneries of Wheeling, 1886.” Ohio County Public Library Digital Collection. Accessed March 4, 2024.

9 Ibid.

10 Hensley, Frances S. “Women in the Industrial Work Force in West Virginia, 1880-1945.” West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies 49 (1990): 115-124.

11 Fairtrade International. “The Women Who Make Our Clothes Are Invisible. It’s Time to Change That.”