Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Jane Louise Ferguson White, 1877-1941
By Anthony Czesnakowski, Alyssa Lambert-Alonso, and Kailynn Leoni; Undergraduate students, California University of Pennsylvania
Jane Louise Ferguson was born on June 24, 1877 in Greenville, South Carolina to Major John Ferguson and his wife, Harriet Grady Ferguson. Jane's father was a part of Hampton's Legion, which was an American Civil War regiment of the Confederate States. She was the youngest of four children. She lived in South Carolina with her parents until she graduated from Greenville Female College.
In 1898, during the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Jane met a captain who was in the Second West Virginia Regiment that was stationed in Greenville. On October 4, 1904, Jane became known as Jane Ferguson White (Mrs. Kemble White), after marrying Captain White of Marshall County, West Virginia. Kemble White, a well-known alumnus of West Virginia University, returned to school upon leaving military service, earning his law degree and becoming a lawyer. The newlyweds resided in Fairmont, West Virginia. Within three years of their marriage, Jane gave birth to their first child, Harriet Kemble White, in 1907. Eight years later she had their first and only son, Kemble White, Jr., who eventually became a college track star and an Air Force Squadron Commander. According to the 1920 and 1930 census, Jane was registered as a homemaker. She can be found under different variations of her name such as Mrs. Kimble White, Janie Ferguson, or Janes White.
Mrs. White took part in many religious and civic activist groups, including the Young Women's Christianity Association. She was both a member and on the board of the Fairmount branch of the YWCA for many years. In 1915, the Equal Suffrage Association of the city named her as one of the delegates to attend the state convention that was held in Huntington, West Virginia from September 29-30.
Jane had a vast interest in plants and gardening. She maintained extravagant rose gardens at her Fairmont home, Lilac Lodge, and then later at her farm, the Sycamores, in Clarksburg. She was the president of the West Virginia Garden Club and eventually became the Chairman of Conservation for the National Garden Federation. Her dedication to plant conservation made her very popular in the local newspapers and allowed her to share her knowledge across the world. She and her husband traveled to Hawaii, Mexico, and several other locations to spread her botanical expertise.
In 1922, Jane and Mrs. Mabane travelled to Europe at the request of Queen Marie of Romania, which became national news. Mrs. Mabane was active on the American Committee for a Devastated France and was invited to the Balkans to observe the conditions in the area. While she was active in her relief work, Queen Maria invited her for a personal visit. Jane was Mrs. Mabane's traveling companion, so she went along visiting the Queen at her summer palace in Sanai. During their visit, the Queen asked for the two women to attend her official coronation, but they were not able to since they had already planned on returning home prior to the special event. Four years later, the Queen visited America in 1926 and met Jane again.
In 1933, Jane and her husband moved to Clarksburg, West Virginia, where she lived for the rest of her days. She died on March 19, 1941 as a result of complications following an appendectomy. She was buried at Bridgeport Cemetery in Bridgeport, West Virginia. She was described as an outgoing person, socially well-connected, and an adventuresome sort by her grandson, Kemble White III. A glimpse of her obituary can be found in a publication that was written by Earl Core, a well-known botanist, called Castanea Vol. 6, No. 5.
Mrs. Jane White can be seen pictured on the right. This photograph was published in the El Paso Herald on December 1, 1922 when she and Mrs. Mabane visited Queen Marie of Romania.
1920 U.S. Census, Fairmont, Marion, West Virginia, p. 8b, Enumeration District 23. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
1930 U.S. Census, Fairmont, Marion, West Virginia, p. 6a, Enumeration District 11. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
1940 U.S. Census, Clarksburg, Harrison, West Virginia, p. 8b, Enumeration District 17-15A. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
"American Women Guests of Royalty" El Paso Herald, Dec. 1, 1922, 5. http://www.newspapers.com/clip/5029097/mrs-kemble-white-guest-of-royalty-el/.
Core, Earl L. "Notes on Some West Virginia Plants." Castanea 6, no. 5 (1941): 86-88. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4031076.
"Garden Clubs Plan Meeting," The Charleston Daily Mail (WV), May 17, 1936, 1, http://www.newspapers.com/clip/5029029/mrs-kemble-white-garden-club-the/.
"Memorial page for Jane Ferguson White." Find a Grave. Accessed September 15, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/113621967/jane-white.
"Mrs. Kemble White Succumbs at 63: Was Civic Leader", Clarksburg Telegram, March 19, 1941.
Mullens, Cynthia. "Kemble White Jr., 1915-1944." West Virginia Veterans Memorial, West Virginia Archives & History, August 2016. http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/vets/whitekemble/whitekemble.html.