Celebrating the life of Sarah B. Cochran with help from a distant relative.
May is Women’s History Month, a time to raise up and share the stories of the strong women who have shaped our region. Not all of them, however, are as widely known as you’d hope.
Born in 1857 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Cochran was many things to many people: a daughter and maid, then wife and mother. Before the death of her husband, Philip Cochran, in 1899, she learned the ins and outs of the Cochran family’s coal and coke business. When he passed, Cochran was left in full control until her son came of age—but he died not long after his father, at the age of 20.
In the aftermath, Cochran herself filled many of her late husband’s positions across several states. It was a man’s industry, but she took the work in stride, going on to become a coal-industry powerhouse and a philanthropist, traveling the world and serving her community.
Cochran had many ties in Morgantown and West Virginia. She was a co-founder of Cochran Coal & Coke Company of Morgantown, and she served as a benefactor to Phi Kappa Si’s West Virginia Alpha Chapter in honor of her son. Her nephew attended school at West Virginia University, meeting and marrying the daughter of a West Virginia congressman before his untimely death on the Titanic in 1912.
Cochran’s philanthropic work was generous—nearly $2 million in 1936 dollars—and widespread, covering a variety of projects and needs in the region. In a condensed list of her work, she
- opened the doors of her now nationally recognized historic home, Linden Hall in Dawson, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, to host suffrage fundraisers and meetings;
- was a trustee for multiple colleges and universities;
- sponsored several immigrant workers in pursuit of U.S. citizenship; and
- grew and expanded her late husband’s coal businesses to an international level.
Cochran’s influence has reached thousands, adding titles to her person that you won’t see on any census—Sarah B. Cochran: mother, wife, philanthropist, coal queen.
Find Hess’ book A Lesser Mortal: The Unexpected Life of Sarah B. Cochran on Amazon.
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