Open main menu

BALL, Mrs. Isabel Worrell, pioneer woman journalist of the West, born in a log cabin near Hennepin, Putnam county, Ill., 13th March, 1855. She is of Scotch-Irish parents. Her father was James Purcell Worrell. Her mother's maiden name was Elizabeth McClung. Mrs. Ball was always a self-reliant individual, even in childhood preferring to investigate and judge for herself. She was educated in public schools and academies, and was the leader in her classes, except in mathematics, for which science, in all its branches, she felt and showed the deepest aversion. Her favorite study was history. Her father was a lawyer, and at the age of thirteen years she began to study with him, gaining a fair knowledge of law. When she was sixteen years old, a weakness of the eyes forced her to leave school. In 1873 her family removed to western Kansas. There she rode over the prairies, assisting in herding her father's stock, learning to throw a lasso with the dexterity of a cowboy and to handle a gun with the skill of a veteran. The outdoor life soon restored her health. She taught the first public school in Pawnee county, Kans., and her school district included the whole immense county. She spent the next year as clerk in a store situated three miles from her home, riding back and forth on her pony. She was the second woman to be appointed a notary public in Kansas. She held positions in committee clerkships in sessions of the Kansas legislature from 1876 to 1886 and served as a press reporter from 1877 to 1890. She is a pronounced Republican in politics, for which she has always had a fondness, and through her positions in the legislature she has become acquainted with all the prominent politicians of the West. Her journalistic work began in 1881 on the Albuquerque "Journal" in New Mexico, and as correspondent of the Kansas City "Times." While living in New-Mexico and Arizona she had many experiences with the Indians and gathered much interesting material for future work. There, as she says, she practically "lived in a little gripsack." The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was being built from Albuquerque to the Needles, and she was special correspondent for the Albuquerque "Daily Journal." Her husband was a member of the construction party, but was with her only a part of the time, for, was there a washout, an Indian outbreak, or a wreck, she was expected to be on hand. Her life was often in danger from the Indians, both Navajoes and Apaches being belligerent at that time. Once the boarding train was surrounded by the Indians, and escape entirely cut off by washouts. The little dwelling, a box car. was riddled with bullets, and two men were killed, but Mrs. Ball escaped unhurt. For two years she lived in that wild country, seeing no woman's face, save that of a squaw, for three months at a time. In 1882 she returned to Kansas and acted for three years as editor of the Lamed "Chronoscope," then the leading and official Republican journal in western Kansas. She removed to Topeka in 1886 and was made assistant secretary of the State Historical Society by legislative enactment The Commonwealth Publishing Company engaged her as editor of their patent one-side publications, issued for State and county papers, handling one-hundred-sixty-two newspapers. She afterwards filled an important editorial position on the "Daily Commonwealth." In 1888 she became literary critic of the Kansas City "Daily Times," and editor of the weekly issue of that journal. In 1889 she took a position on the Kansas City "Star," which she held until the fall of 1891, when she removed to Washington and entered upon special journalistic work. Besides all this regular newspaper writing she has contributed many sketches to eastern periodicals. In 1889, in conjunction with others, she called together by correspondence a number of the most prominent writers in the West, and the meeting resulted in the formation of the Western Authors' and Artists' ISABEL WORRELL HALL.jpgISABEL WORRELL HALL. Club, which meets annually in Kansas City. Mrs. Hall is the secretary and master spirit of the organization. In 1887 she was married to H. M. Ball, a man of high scholarship and extensive reading and information. They have had but one child, which died at the age of three years. Mrs. Hall says she does not lay claim to any accomplishments. The only music she knows is the barking of the hounds on the trail of deer or antelope. She is a deal more familiar with a picket pin than with a needle, and with a lariat rope than with zephyr. While her husband thinks her a pretty good housekeeper, she can handle a gun with as much ease as she can handle a broom, and a hall full of angry politicians does not disconcert her half as much as a parlor or drawing-room full of chattering society dames. Though a leader among women, she is not a woman suffragist.