The mothers, the millennials, and the mavens. Changing our communities.
This is our seventh annual unveiling of 50 amazing women who are raising the bar in their communities, serving as beacons of light in their industries, and forcing change for the greater good. Meet this West Virginia Wonder Woman, Ancella Bickley, and many more that are creating a better West Virginia with their can-do attitudes and Mountain State spirit.
Ancella Bickley is a groundbreaking historian who expanded the body of knowledge on African American history in West Virginia. Her preservation efforts include oral histories from the West Virginia School for the Colored Deaf and Blind and the recovery and archiving of medical files from an abandoned segregated sanatorium.
Bickley spent her early years in a predominantly white neighborhood in Huntington, during the 1930s, where a white woman across the street from her home stood up with her Jamaican mother when she became a naturalized citizen. Bickley earned her bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia State College in 1950 and, in 1954, earned her master’s degree in English from Marshall University, where she was the first full-time Black graduate student. She went on to earn her doctorate in education from West Virginia University in 1974 and taught English at West Virginia State University, where she retired as the vice president of academic affairs.
In 1988, along with historian Joe Trotter, Bickley started the seminal West Virginia Conference on Black History. In 1997, she published her work, Our Mount Vernons, on sites of significance to black history in West Virginia. She later coedited a work on Memphis Tennessee Garrison and encourages others to look back at those who have inspired them and record their lives.
Today, she enjoys a quiet life in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband of 70 years and elder daughter, where she spends mornings drinking coffee on her front porch.