by Christina M. Vogt. Ph.D.
About a year ago, the Morgan County Commission declared March to be West Virginia Women in History Month as part of a statewide initiative organized under the Secretary of State, Mac Warner’s office.
West Virginia has many great women from the past to celebrate. A few to remember will be displayed in the Berkeley Springs Museum at the end of March.
This exhibit is mostly centered around West Virginia’s passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on March 10, 1920.
Several notable women who were a part of that movement lived in West Virginia. Among these were Lenna Yost, Izetta Jewel, Harriet, Margaret Inskeep and Cornwell, the wife of the Governor and Morgan County’s own suffragist, Georgia McIntire Weaver.
Most notable in this town of Berkeley Springs, was this prominent woman lawyer whose family, the McIntire family, came to the town in the early 1900’s. Georgia McIntire’s graduation from the Atlanta Law School gained nationwide attention as she graduated with honors, but she was unable to practice law in the state of Georgia.
Minnie Hale Daniel and Georgia McIntire Weaver led a movement in Georgia to challenge the State Bar. They were denied admission to the GA State Bar, although both had received their degrees to practice law. Georgia McIntire Weaver came back to West Virginia and gained her admittance into the West Virginia State Bar as this state had allowed women to practice law since the 1890’s.
With her degree in hand, in 1913, Weaver returned to the State of Georgia. She and Minnie Hale Daniel once again led a challenge the State Bar and the Georgia Legislature to allow women to practice law. Weaver was denied although she was a lawyer from another state, West Virginia.
Minnie Hale Daniel kept up the campaign and in 1916, Georgia allowed her and two other lawyers to practice law in the State.
During that time, Georgia McIntire had returned to Berkeley Springs to practice law where her brother, A.C. McIntire, had been a House Delegate in the West Virginia and was an accomplished practicing lawyer in town fighting cases in local, state, and federal courts.
As an organizer for suffrage in Morgan County, and her brother’s political connections in the state, Georgia McIntire Weaver was undoubtedly in the circle of pro-suffrage Governor JJ Cornwell, his pro-suffrage wife, and Margaret Inskeep Keller who was the Governor’s legal secretary, advisor, law clerk and sometimes newspaper editor of the Romney’s paper newspaper, The Hampshire Review.
Weaver was one of the few women who had a successful law practice in the State and was allegedly the only woman practicing in the State of West Virginia by 1915. She had many firsts, but as many articles claim, she was not the state’s first lawyer.
The first lawyer, Agnes Westbrook Morrison, from a prominent Wheeling family in 1895 was the first woman graduate of the WVU College of Law. After her admission to the WV Bar in 1896, she practiced law in Wheeling with her husband, Charles Sumner Morrison.
In 1899, Leila Jesse Frazier of Upper Norwood, Surry, England, and Lilian Ruth Wiles, a native of Hayfield, Virginia also graduated from the WVU College of Law.
Georgia McIntire Weaver was the first woman to try a case in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Weaver won this appeal against a man who had determined his wife had abandoned him.
In fact, the woman was being abused by her husband and his children from his first marriage, so she went to her parent’s home nearby to recuperate from her pregnancy.
Weaver had many other first which have taken months to discover, and her display will be in the Berkeley Springs Museum upon its re-opening.
I also want it noted that Jeanne Mozier was the inspiration for this research, and it is a tribute to her legacy in Berkeley Springs. Come and see the exhibit when the museum is opened in early spring.
The museum exhibit is presented with financial help from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Let us also not forget Harriett Tubman for her work bringing thousands of escaped slaves through West Virginia so they could obtain their freedom. Apparently, she never lost one person in her charge.