Harriet Jones, M.D., was the first woman to be licensed as a physician in West Virginia and the first woman to be elected to its House of Delegates.
Harriet B. Jones was born in Edensburg, Pennsylvania, in 1856. In 1862, when she was just 6 years old, her parents, John P. Jones and Hanna Rodgers Jones, moved the family to Cranberry Summit, now Terra Alta, West Virginia. Her public-spirited father, a general merchandiser, was active in the Presbyterian church and Republican politics, serving three terms in the state legislature.
Harriet Jones attended Wheeling Female College in West Virginia and graduated with honors from Woman's Medical College of Baltimore, Maryland, in 1884. The field of medicine was changing as Harriet Jones graduated. Cocaine injection had just come into use as a local anesthetic and the first successful appendectomy in the United States was performed in Iowa. New techniques for the control of pain and infection expanded the possibilities for surgical intervention for a wide range of medical conditions, and abdominal and gynecological surgery were two of the first specialties to benefit.
Dr. Jones decided to pursue post-graduate training in gynecology and abdominal surgery in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago before returning to Wheeling, West Virgnia, in 1886 to set up a private practice. She became the first woman doctor licensed in the state. Two years later, the board of West Virginia Hospital for the Insane in Weston, later renamed Weston State Hospital, elected her assistant superintendent. Building on her background in hospital administration, Dr. Jones returned to Wheeling in 1892 to establish a women's hospital that thrived for the next twenty years.
Women's rights were of great interest to Dr. Jones. Her fight to have women admitted to the state's colleges and its only university was won in 1889. She also served as president of the state's Women's Christian Temperance Union. She was active in the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, from its beginnings in the 1890s until women were granted the right to vote in 1920. Dr. Jones then became a member of the League of Women Voters. Combining her medical expertise and her civic interests, she lectured throughout the state on temperance, literature, and public health issues. Her memberships included the West Virginia State Medical Association, the Ohio County Medical Society, and the American Medical Association. Dr. Jones also lobbied to establish state sanitariums for tuberculosis treatment and was executive secretary of the West Virginia Tuberculosis Association for ten years.
Dr. Jones's interest in the welfare of homeless girls moved her to lobby tirelessly for six years to enact a bill on their behalf. In 1897 the West Virginia legislature passed an act establishing the West Virginia Children's Home at Elkins, as well as a state reformatory, the West Virginia Industrial Home for Girls.
Once women had the right to vote, Dr. Jones became active in politics. She won the 1924 election as a Republican from Marshall County and was later re-elected to a second term. Before her death in 1943, Dr. Harriet Jones authored several pamphlets, including "What You Should Know About the Government of West Virginia," "Parliamentary Laws," and "How We Got Our English Bible." She also wrote a history of women's suffrage in the state of West Virginia.