Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-1993

Variant names

Hide Profile

Ruth Cowan Nash (June 15, 1901 - February 5, 1993) was the first woman war correspondent. She is famous for her coverage of World War II, during which she followed the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps and reported on major battles for the Associated Press.

Ruth Cowan Nash was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 15, 1901, the only child of parents William Henry and Ida (Baldwin) Cowan. Her father was a mining prospector who died in 1911, at which point Cowan's mother, Ida, bought a homestead in Florida. They were required by the government to live on the property in order to retain their homestead status, and they lived there for about two years trying to raise grapefruit and orange trees. At the end of that time, Nash and her mother returned to Salt Like City, where Nash attended St. Mary's Academy, a convent school, despite the fact that Nash's family was not Catholic. Ida Cowan had previously been a teacher, and felt that private schools provided a better education, so Nash completed seventh and eighth grade there.

Ida Cowan disliked the cold weather in Salt Lake City, and used the money that she saved from the sale of their homestead to move to San Antonio, Texas. Ida began traveling to find a job, but Nash requested to stay put. Her mother agreed, and found boarding her for at Ursuline Academy, a boarding school. Nash never again returned to living with her mother. Instead, she supported herself with odd jobs while living in San Antonio and attending two other schools, St. Michael's Academy and Main Avenue High School. She worked as a clerk, a librarian, and in the book section of a department store while in high school. When she enrolled in the Main Avenue High School, they found her to be an advanced student and allowed her to graduate high school in two years. During her time there, however, Nash met Elva Cunningham, the president of the San Antonio Parent Teacher Association. Because Nash's mother never lived anywhere consistently, Cunnginham invited Nash to live with the Cunningham family, which consisted of Elva and her husband, John, their sons, and Elva's sister, Mary Carter.

Nash enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin in 1919, and moved out of the Cunningham home in order to do so, but they remained like a second family to her. While there, Newman lived in a Catholic dormitory, Newman Hall. While there, she continued to work odd jobs to support herself. It was during this time that she gave herself the middle name Barbara, but she changed it to Baldwin, her mother's maiden name, shortly thereafter to please her. When Nash graduated in 1923, she became an algebra teacher at Main Avenue High School, the same high school that she had attended herself. While teaching, she lived with the Cunninghams once again.

Nash's journalism career began in 1924, when she began writing part-time as a movie reviewer for the San Antonio Evening News. She got the job through Mary Carter, sister of Elva Cunningham, who knew the managing editor of the paper and worked in the news room. In 1926 they hired her for a full-time position at the Evening News. Nash recalled in an oral history interview that she particularly liked getting "night assignments... because they didn't think I should have them." She also started offering her services as a free-lance journalist, and wrote for other papers, such as the Houston Chronicle, under the name Baldwin Cowan in order to disguise her gender. While working doing work for the Houston Chronicle, Nash met Oveta Culp Hobby and they became fast friends. She continued to work at the San Antonio Evening News until 1929, during which time she covered the 1928 Democratic National Convention in Houston, Texas. While there, she interviewed Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Impressed with her work there, which she had written under her pen name of Baldwin Cowan, United Press offered her a job in January 1929, which she accepted. Not long after, an executive from United Press came to the newsroom looking to praise the work of Baldwin Cowan — when it became clear that there was no such man, only Ruth Cowan Nash, she was fired.

Meanwhile, Kent Cooper at the Associated Press had begun the practice of hiring women during his tenure as general manager beginning in 1925. Upon being fired from United Press for her sex, Nash wrote a letter to Cooper that began: "Dear Mr. Cooper. First, I am a girl. Sight unseen I pass for a man. But notwithstanding my femininity, I need a job, want one with the AP, and can hold it." Cooper promptly hired Nash, and she would go on to work for the Associated Press for the next 27 years as a reporter, writing about many important historical events, although she was often pressured by her superiors to cover the news from the "woman's angle."

She was initially assigned to Chicago, Illinois where she covered Al Capone's trial. While covering the case, she recalled having a "feature instinct," a result of Mr. Capone limping down the courtroom aisle. Nash asked, "New shoes. They hurt, don't they?" to which Mr. Capone responded, "Yes," which Nash used as the hook for her report. She was later assigned to Washington D.C., where she covered social life, human interest stories, and Eleanor Roosevelt's press conferences. Nash would eventually become friendly with the then-First Lady, and correspond with each other often. While in Washington, Nash spent May 1942 covering the introduction and eventual passage of the bill that established the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, later the Women's Army Corps (WACs).

After covering the establishment of WACs, Nash requested to follow their first contingent overseas. Her request was approved by her long-time friend, Oveta Culp Hobby, who was then the director of the WACs. Shortly after, AP also approved her request, and Nash left for North Africa, where she would report on WACs, hospitals, and military operations. She was accompanied by one other woman reporter, Inez Robb from the International News Service. Together they were the first women to ever be accredited as United States Army War Correspondents. It is possible that Robb and Nash were utilized as tools to recruit more women for WACs, or garner more support for the war from American women. While reporting, Nash was required to wear the same uniform as the WAC women, and was required to adhere to all the regulations of a member of the Armed Forces.

While deployed in Algeria, beginning January 1943, Nash was met with considerable resistance both from within the U.S. Army and her coworkers at the Associated Press. She suspected that Wes Gallagher, manager of the AP office in North Africa who would go on to become president and General Manager of AP, was hostile to her work, even going so far as to put her in a position that he knew would be bombed. However, not all were hostile to her work. Shortly after her arrival in Algeria, Nash met General George Patton. He reportedly asked her what the first rule of war was, to which Nash responded: "You kill him before he kills you." Patton afterwards stated, "She stays."

In May 1943 Nash was assigned to England, where she covered the arrival of WACs there and the preparations for the European invasion. Then, in September 1944, Nash moved to France and was present for the liberation of Paris. She also covered the Battle of the Bulge. Nash covered the war without a break from 1943 to 1945, mixing hair dye in her helmet to keep her blonde hair neat. Many of her stories were about women and the war effort, but she also wrote about wounded soldiers, new medical treatments, and the effects of war on civilians.

In April 1945, Nash was reassigned to AP's Washington Bureau, and after the war she covered the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, and general military news until 1956. In 1956, she was forced to retire from AP, whose policy stated that women could not work after their 55th birthday. The compulsory retirement age for men at that time was 65.

Early into her forced retirement, Nash married Bradley De Lamater Nash, a Harvard University graduate and expert in government operations who had worked as the Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce. They moved together to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, where they owned High Acres Farm. Nash used her retirement to continue writing, this time working on her memoir about her experiences during the war. Her manuscript, titled Why Go to War?, was rejected by the publishing company she sent it to in 1946 due to the market's over-saturation with war books.

Ruth Nash was also an active member of the Republican Party, and from May 1957 to August 1958 she served as a public relations consultant for the Republican National Committee's women's division.

Beginning in September 1958, Nash served as the confidential administrative assistant to Bertha Adkins, the Under Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services). Also in 1958, Nash became a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).

Ruth Cowan Nash died on February 5, 1993, of respiratory arrest in her sleep. She was 91 years old. She had no children. Her papers are currently held at Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Women in Journalism Oral History Project. Interview transcripts, 1988-1994 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Washington Press Club Foundation. Washington Press Club Foundation oral history interviews, 1990s [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Papers, ca.1905-1989 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-. [Award ceremony] [videorecording]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-. Papers: Series I-IV, 1905-1990 (inclusive) [microform]. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-. Papers: Series V-VII, 1935-1979 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-. Papers, 1905-1990 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adkins, Bertha Sheppard, 1906-1983. person
associatedWith Albert, Irene person
associatedWith Albert, Irene. person
associatedWith American Newspaper Women's Club. corporateBody
associatedWith American Red Cross. corporateBody
associatedWith Arne, Sigrid person
associatedWith Arne, Sigrid. person
associatedWith Associated Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Beale, William L., Jr. person
associatedWith Beale, William L., Jr. person
associatedWith Benson, Flora person
associatedWith Bergman, Ingrid, 1915- person
associatedWith Bergman, Ingrid, 1915-1982. person
associatedWith Bolton, Frances Payne Bingham, 1885-1977. person
associatedWith Bonnier, Tora person
associatedWith Bonnier, Tora. person
associatedWith Bradley, Omar Nelson, 1893-1981. person
associatedWith Bunnelle, Robert person
associatedWith Bunnelle, Robert. person
associatedWith Canadian Red Cross corporateBody
associatedWith Coe, Richard L. person
associatedWith Cooper, Kent, 1880-1965. person
associatedWith Cowan, Ida Baldwin, 1865-1944. person
associatedWith Davis, Robert person
associatedWith Davis, Robert. person
associatedWith Deadline Delayed corporateBody
associatedWith Dewey, Thomas E. (Thomas Edmund), 1902-1971. person
associatedWith Dierks, Barry. person
associatedWith Dunnigan, Alice Allison, 1906-1983. person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969. person
correspondedWith Eleanor Roosevelt person
associatedWith Estill, Alice King person
associatedWith Estill, Alice King. person
associatedWith Federal Council on Aging (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Federal Council on the Aging (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Fleeson, Doris person
associatedWith Fleeson, Doris. person
associatedWith Forrestal, James, 1892-1949. person
associatedWith Fry, Grace person
associatedWith Fry, Grace. person
associatedWith Furman, Bess, 1894- person
associatedWith Furman, Bess, 1894-1969. person
associatedWith Gingras, Angèle de Tranaltes. person
associatedWith Gingras, Angele de Tranaltes person
associatedWith Gould, Alan J. person
associatedWith Gray, Gordon person
associatedWith Gray, Gordon. person
associatedWith Gulick, Carol (Moffett) person
associatedWith Gulick, Carol Moffett. person
associatedWith Hackler, Victor person
associatedWith Hackler, Victor. person
associatedWith Hager, Alice Rogers person
associatedWith Hager, Alice Rogers. person
associatedWith Hall, Nana person
associatedWith Hall, Nana. person
associatedWith Harlow, Bryce L., 1949- person
associatedWith Harlow, Bryce L., 1949- person
associatedWith Harwell, Coleman person
associatedWith Harwell, Coleman. person
associatedWith Helm, Edith person
associatedWith Helm, Edith. person
associatedWith Herrick, Genevieve Forbes person
associatedWith Herrick, Genevieve Forbes. person
associatedWith Hickok, Lorena A person
associatedWith Hickok, Lorena A. person
associatedWith Hope, Pauline person
associatedWith Hope, Pauline. person
associatedWith Horak, Henriette person
associatedWith Horak, Henriette. person
associatedWith Hornaday, Mary person
associatedWith Hornaday, Mary. person
associatedWith Hoskins, Samuel person
associatedWith Hoskins, Samuel. person
associatedWith Houston Chronicle corporateBody
associatedWith Howard, Katherine Graham, 1898- person
associatedWith Howard, Katherine Graham, 1898- person
associatedWith Jagger, Claude A. person
associatedWith Jagger, Claude A. person
associatedWith Jean E. Collins person
associatedWith Jones, Gladys Moon person
associatedWith Jones, Gladys Moon. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward Moore, 1932- person
associatedWith Kernodle, Margaret person
associatedWith Kernodle, Margaret. person
associatedWith Landon, Alfred M. (Alfred Mossman), 1887-1987 person
associatedWith Landon, Alfred M. (Alfred Mossman), 1887-1987. person
associatedWith Landon, Margaret Fleming person
associatedWith Landon, Margaret Fleming. person
associatedWith Lochner, Louis Paul, 1887-1975 person
associatedWith Lochner, Louis Paul, 1887-1975. person
associatedWith Louchheim, Katie, 1903- person
associatedWith Louchheim, Katie, 1903- person
associatedWith MacArthur, Douglas, 1880-1964 person
associatedWith MacArthur, Douglas, 1880-1964. person
associatedWith Mackie, Albert David, 1904- person
associatedWith Mackie, Albert David, 1904- person
associatedWith Mannon, Virginia M. person
associatedWith Mannon, Virginia M. person
associatedWith Margot Knight person
associatedWith Marshall, George C. (George Catlett), 1880-1959 person
associatedWith Marshall, George C. (George Catlett), 1880-1959. person
associatedWith May, Geraldine P. person
associatedWith May, Geraldine P. person
associatedWith Maynor, Dorothy person
associatedWith McKee, Rose person
associatedWith McKee, Rose. person
associatedWith McLaughlin, Kathleen person
associatedWith McLaughlin, Kathleen. person
associatedWith Mendes-France, Pierre person
associatedWith Mesta, Perle Skirvin, 1891- person
associatedWith Mesta, Perle Skirvin, 1891- person
associatedWith Miller, Helen Hill, 1899- person
associatedWith Miller, Helen Hill, 1899- person
associatedWith Miller, Paul, 1906- person
associatedWith Miller, Paul, 1906- person
associatedWith Mitchell, Ruth person
associatedWith Morgan, Gwen person
associatedWith Morgan, Gwen. person
associatedWith Morse, True D. person
associatedWith Morse, True D. person
associatedWith Murrow, Edward R. person
associatedWith Murrow, Edward R. person
associatedWith Nash, Bradley De Lamater, 1900- person
associatedWith Nash, Bradley De Lamater, 1900- person
associatedWith Neuberger, Richard person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913- person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. person
associatedWith Nordness, Ned person
associatedWith Nordness, Ned. person
associatedWith Norton, Mary Theresa, 1875-1959 person
associatedWith Norton, Mary Theresa, 1875-1959. person
associatedWith Overseas Press Club of America corporateBody
associatedWith Overseas Press Club of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Pace, Pearl Carter person
associatedWith Palencia, Senora Isabel de person
associatedWith Parks, F. L. person
associatedWith Parks, F. L. person
associatedWith Patton, Beatrice person
associatedWith Pavlichenko, Liudmila person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965. person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith Pohlman, Millie person
associatedWith Pohlman, Millie. person
associatedWith Prewett, Virginia person
associatedWith Prewett, Virginia. person
associatedWith Price, Byron, 1891- person
associatedWith Price, Byron, 1891- person
associatedWith Priest, Ivy Baker person
associatedWith Pyle, Ernie, 1900-1945 person
associatedWith Pyle, Ernie, 1900-1945. person
associatedWith Randolph, Jennings, 1902- person
associatedWith Randolph, Jennings, 1902-1998. person
associatedWith Rankin, Jeannette person
associatedWith Reading, Lady Stella person
associatedWith Reavis, Hazel person
associatedWith Reavis, Hazel. person
associatedWith Republican National Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Republican National Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Roberts, Kenneth person
associatedWith Rogers, Edith Nourse person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Elizabeth person
associatedWith Roosevelt, James person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Sara Delano person
associatedWith San Antonio Evening News corporateBody
associatedWith Sayre, Mrs. Raymond person
associatedWith Shaver, Dorothy person
associatedWith Shepard, Lily Lykes person
associatedWith Shepard, Lily Lykes. person
associatedWith Simons, Frieda Hennock, 1904-1960 person
associatedWith Simons, Frieda Hennock, 1904-1960. person
associatedWith Smith, Helena Huntington person
associatedWith Smith, Helena Huntington. person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897- person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995. person
associatedWith Smith, Walter Bedell, 1895-1961 person
associatedWith Smith, Walter Bedell, 1895-1961. person
associatedWith Solomon, Gladis person
associatedWith Solomon, Gladis. person
associatedWith Spaatz, Carl person
associatedWith Sparkman, Ivo person
associatedWith Starzel, Frank J. person
associatedWith Starzel, Frank J. person
associatedWith Stassen, Esther person
associatedWith Stassen, Harold Edward, 1907- person
associatedWith Stassen, Harold Edward, 1907-2001. person
associatedWith Stearns, Jessie person
associatedWith Stearns, Jessie. person
associatedWith Stevenson, Adlai person
associatedWith Stevenson, Ellen Borden person
associatedWith St. George, Katharine person
associatedWith Ström, Else. person
associatedWith Strom, Else person
associatedWith Sullivan, Leonor person
associatedWith Tabouis, Genevieve person
associatedWith Taft, Martha person
associatedWith Thompson, Malvina, 1893-1953 person
associatedWith Thompson, Malvina, 1893-1953. person
associatedWith Thomsen, Annelise person
associatedWith Tildy, Madame Zoltan person
associatedWith Troxel, Dorothy A. person
associatedWith Truman, Bess Wallace person
associatedWith Truman, Bess Wallace. person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. person
associatedWith Truman, Margaret, 1924- person
associatedWith Truman, Margaret, 1924-2008. person
associatedWith United Press Associations corporateBody
associatedWith United Press Associations. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Women's Army Corps. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Naval Reserve. Women's Reserve. corporateBody
associatedWith Van Asch Van Wijck, Cornelia person
associatedWith Van Kleffens, Mme. Eelco Nicolaas person
associatedWith Vasilakos, Steve person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry person
associatedWith Washington Press Club Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Washington Press Club Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Webb, James Edwin person
associatedWith Weis, Jessica McCullough, 1901-1963 person
associatedWith Weis, Jessica McCullough, 1901-1963. person
associatedWith Wells, Fay Gillis person
associatedWith Wells, Fay Gillis. person
associatedWith Welsh, Estelle person
associatedWith Welsh, Estelle. person
associatedWith Westlake, William person
associatedWith Westlake, William. person
associatedWith West, Rebecca, 1892-1983. person
associatedWith West, Rebecca, Dame, 1892- person
associatedWith Wheaton, Anne person
associatedWith Wheaton, Anne. person
associatedWith White House Conference on Aging (1961 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Aging (1961: Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Children and Youth (1960 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith White House Conference on Children and Youth (1960: Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith White, Katharine Elkers person
associatedWith Wickens, Aryness Joy, 1901- person
associatedWith Wickens, Aryness Joy, 1901- person
associatedWith Willis, Frances person
associatedWith Women in Journalism Oral History Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Press Club of London corporateBody
associatedWith Women's Press Club of London. corporateBody
associatedWith Young, Marjorie W. (Marjorie Willis), 1902- person
associatedWith Young, Marjorie W. (Marjorie Willis), 1902- person
associatedWith Zirbes, Laura, 1884-1967 person
associatedWith Zirbes, Laura, 1884-1967. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Washington, D. C. DC US
Chicago IL US
Harpers Ferry WV US
Republic of France 00 FR
San Antonio TX US
Salt Lake City UT US
People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria 00 DZ
Subject
Motion picture journalism
Newspapers
Parents
Public relations and politics
Regional planning
Reporters and reporting
Sex discrimination against women
Women
Women and journalism
Women journalists
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
War correspondents
Aging
Feature stories
Foreign correspondents
Journalism
Journalists
Journalists
Occupation
War correspondents
Journalists
Activity

Person

Birth 1901-06-15

Death 1993-02-05

Female

Americans

English

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w66b7v6t

Ark ID: w66b7v6t

SNAC ID: 85732341