Izetta Jewell Brown (November 24, 1883-November 15, 1978) was born Izetta Jewell Kenny in Hackettstown, New Jersey. She came to West Virginia in 1914 as the bride of Congressman William Gay Brown of Kingwood. Already a well-known actress and an activist for women’s rights, during her West Virginia years Brown blazed the way for women in politics.
When her husband died in 1916, just three months after the birth of their daughter, she took over management of their Preston County farm and established a modern dairy operation. Active in farm organizations, she attended the first farm women’s camp at Jackson’s Mill and later served on a committee to improve wool production in the state.
Brown became the first woman to second a presidential nominee in a major party nominating convention as she seconded West Virginian John W. Davis for the Democratic nomination in 1920. She seconded Davis again in his successful quest for the nomination in 1924 and herself received an honorific nomination for vice president. She was the first woman south of the Mason-Dixon line to run for the U.S. Senate, as she battled Matthew Mansfield Neely for the Democratic nomination in 1922 and lost by only 6,000 votes. Brown lost to William E. Chilton in another narrow race in 1924.
In 1925, she married Hugh Miller, dean of the school of engineering at George Washington University. They moved to New York where she ran for Congress in 1930, became the commissioner of public welfare in Schenectady in 1931, and later served as a regional administrator with New Deal relief agencies, occasionally visiting West Virginia.
She died in La Jolla, California.
This Article was written by Jerry Bruce Thomas
Last Revised on September 27, 2012
"Izetta Jewell Brown Miller," in Comstock, Jim, ed, West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia. vol. 22. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1974.
New York Times, 11/15/1978.