Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alma McWhorter West, 1878-1951

By Sarah Crayton and Evan Mercado, Undergraduate Students, California University of Pennsylvania

Alma McWhorter West (Mrs. Orlandus West), was a woman who worked hard and dedicated much of her life to the fight for the betterment of women's rights and equality.

The story of Alma McWhorter West begins on September 9th, 1878 in Lost Creek, Harrison County, West Virginia. Alma was born to farmer John M. McWhorter and Mary Matilda Davisson and grew up alongside five other siblings: Albert Lee, Eliza, John Cleveland, Iden M., and Icie McWhorter.

Alma McWhorter was an educated woman who attended West Virginia Wesleyan College and went on to become an educator herself until marrying her spouse Orlandus A. West on November 29th,1906 in Harrison County, West Virginia. Orlandus worked as the Vice President of Eagle Convex Glass Specialty Co. Notably Alma's older sister Eliza was married to Orlandus's older brother Owen - and at the end of their lives, after the passing of their husbands, the sisters would live together.

As a suffragist and champion for women's rights, Mrs. West worked within the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, to promote suffrage in under-represented areas of West Virginia. Such representation occurred through collaboration with various other organizations that pushed for the ratification of the 19th Amendment in the state. West also held leadership positions in three organizations- a board member of the West Virginia League of Women Voters, chair of the Harrison County Equal Suffrage Organization, and president of the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1915 she served as superindendent of equal suffrage work for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and gave what one newspaper account called "a brief snappy talk concerning the cause of suffrage in West Virginia." In July 1916 she gave a talk, "Our Work as Women's [sic] Christian Temperance Union Women for Suffrage" at an Institute sponsored by the WCTU. Finally, Mrs. West lobbied for ratification of the 19th Amendment, which the state legislature did in March 1920.

Other involvements included the Clarksburg Club, the American Red Cross, the YWCA, The Coterie Club and the first Methodist Church of Clarksburg. She also ran, unsuccessfully, for the House of Delegates on two occasions. During World War I she was part of the "Four Minute Men" campaign in West Virginia, speaking in support of the war. She also served as state chairman of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and spoke at its 27th annual state convention in 1920.

Upon her death on May 14, 1951, Alma McWhorter West was interred in the Elkview Masonic Cemetery in Clarksburg, West Virginia, buried next to her husband Orlandus who had died in 1939. Mrs. Orlandus West willed $10,000 to West Virginia Wesleyan College, and $10,000 to Salem College, now Salem University. At the time of her death $10,000 was roughly equal to $101,159 in today's value. According to her will, the money given to West Virginia Wesleyan was to be used as a scholarship fund "to assist needy, worthy and capable students to get an education." Despite her contributions and education, Alma McWhorter West's occupation as listed on her death certificate was "housewife."


1880 U.S. Census. Grant, Harrison, West Virginia, p. 283B, Enumeration District 115. Digital Images.

1900 U.S. Census. Grant, Harrison, West Virginia, p. 5, Enumeration District 49. Digital Images.

1910 U.S. Census. Clarksburg Ward 1, Harrison, West Virginia, p. 3B. Enumeration District 17. Digital Images.

1920 U.S. Census. Clarksburg Ward 1, Harrison, West Virginia, p. 10B. Enumeration District 57. Digital Images.

"Alma McWhorter." Doddridge County Roots: A West Virginia Genealogy. Accessed March 9, 2021.

Harris, John T. West Virginia Legislative Hand Book and Manual and Official Register. Charleston, WV: Tribune Printing Company, 1919.

"W.C.T.U. Meeting Is Brought to End," The West Virginian (Fairmont, WV), 25 Sept. 1915, p. 10.

"Institute Is Held," The Daily Telegram (Clarksburg, WV), 8 July 1916, p. 3.

"Mrs. Olandus West Expires." Clarksburg Exponent (WV), May 15, 1951, 7.

"State Convention of W.C.T.U Tuesday." Charleston Daily Mail (WV), September 26, 1920, 7.

West, Alma McWhorter. West Virginia, U.S, Marriages Index, 1785-1971.

West, Alma McWhorter. Wills and Probate Records, Harrison, West Virginia,1788-1970.

"West Virginia Women Prepare to Vote." Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. West Virginia Archives & History, 2019.

"Women in the West Virginia Woman Suffrage Movement." Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. West Virginia Archives & History, 2019.

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