HARKER, JOSEPH RALPH , President of the Illinois Woman's College, Jacksonville, Ill., was born in the County of Durham, England, June 30, 1853, a son of Ralph D. and Mary (Young) Harker. The mother died in 1889, the father being still alive (1905). There were eight children in his father's family, the male members of which found occupation in coal mining. The entire family came to America in 1871 and settled in Duquoin, Ill., where they continued the occupation of coal mining. The subject of this sketch at that time was eighteen years of age, and, having left school at the age of ten years, had had no opportunity for study in the meantime. He continued to work in the mines until 1874, studying during the summer months when the mines were closed. He obtained good books and set to work in earnest to secure an education. Later he took up Latin and Greek, being assisted in his work by a school friend, and three years of hard work in the winter and study in the summer qualified him, by 1874, to teach a colored school in Duquoin. He then determined to become a teacher by profession, and abandon altogether the life of a miner. In the fall of 1874 he secured the principalship of a school at De Soto, Ill., where he remained two years. He then moved to Beardstown, where he taught one year; then in Meredosia, Morgan County, for four years. His next school was in Waverly, where he taught until 1884, when he was called by President Tanner of Illinois College to take charge of Whipple Academy, where his success was such as to increase the number of pupils from 40 to 138. He taught as Institute Instructor of Teachers for nine years in Perry County, and for several years in Sangamon and Morgan Counties, and his services have been in constant demand for the past twenty-five years. His first connection with college was as a member of the college faculty, taking up his work at the Whipple Academy. Here he continued his studies privately, with the result that he graduated from Illinois College in the class of '88 with the degree of A. B. In 1891 he secured the Master's degree, and that of Doctor of Philosophy in 1893.
In 1893 Doctor Harker assumed his present position as President of the Illinois Female College, now known as the Woman's College. Here he has been very successful and the number of pupils and the efficiency of administration have increased the patronage marvelously. During the past five years large additions to the college buildings have been made in consequence, and in 1900 three acres of ground were added to the college property, and improvements both to the buildings and grounds have been made to the extent of $80,000 within the past five years. The college has now a total enrollment of over 300 students; and the people of Jacksonville certainly owe much to Dr. Harker for the development of their institution.
On September 6, 1876, Joseph Ralph Harker was married to Miss Susan Amass, a native of England, who came to America with her brother. She died January 7, 1880, leaving one daughter named Maude, now the wife of Albert C. Metcalf, of Kewanee, Ill. In December, 1882, Dr. Harker married Fannie E. Wackerle, of Meredosia, daughter of Dr. W. J. Wackerle. Six children were born of this union, namely: Bessie, Jennie, Ralph, Louis, Albert and Ruth.
Dr. Harker is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1904 was a delegate from the Illinois Conference to the General Conference, which met in Los Angeles, Cal. Politically he is a Republican.