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MC 417; M-135

Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-1993. Papers of Ruth Cowan Nash, 1905-1990: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 417; M-135
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Nash, Ruth Cowan, 1901-1993
Title: Papers of Ruth Cowan Nash, ca.1905-1990
Date(s): 1905-1990
Quantity: 6.05 linear feet (14+1/2 file boxes) plus 7 folio folders, 4 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 34 photograph folders, 1 folio photograph folder, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 2 audiocassettes (T-203), 1 motion picture (MP-32), 1 videocassette (Vt-65)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, writings, speeches, etc., of Ruth Cowan Nash, war correspondent and writer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 91-M60, 91-M178
The papers of Ruth Baldwin (Cowan) Nash were given to the Schlesinger Library in April and October 1991 by Ruth Cowan Nash and her husband, Bradley D. Nash. They were processed with funds provided by the donors. Some of the papers were in extremely fragile condition; they were microfilmed with the support of the Friends of the Schlesinger Library.

Processing Information:

Processed: February 1993
By: Katherine Kraft


Access. Collection is open for research, with the exception of folders in Series IV, Writings, which are available only on microfilm (M-135) unless otherwise noted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Ruth Cowan Nash is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


This microfilm (M-135) consists of: clippings re: Nash (#31f+); articles, clippings, and speeches by Nash (#158-211, 213-232, 234-354, 356-384, 386-438, 440-447, 449-450, 453-458, 460-471, 473-477, 479f+, 507, 515-516, 518-528); clippings re: the Women's National Press Club (#574o); and clippings re: Bertha Adkins (#679f+).
Portions of the papers of Ruth Baldwin Cowan Nash were selected for microfilming for preservation reasons. Many of the papers were brittle; a number were water-and/or rodent-damaged.
Dates and/or other information have been written on many items by Nash. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets. Undated items are filed at the end of their respective folders.
The pages of some items were numbered to aid the filmer, the proofreaders, and researchers. These numbers are in square brackets.
The film was proofread by the Schlesinger Library and corrections made where necessary. These corrections may disrupt the sequence of frame numbers.
Most of the material in the collection was difficult to film due to such problems as flimsy paper with text showing through, faded or smudged carbons, faint pencil notations, folded clippings, brittle, torn paper, and water damage. The film was carefully produced to insure that these items are as legible as possible.
Some loose clippings were mounted by the processor. Clippings from newspapers already on microfilm (according to Newspapers in Microform: United States, Library of Congress, 1973), were discarded after filming.
Some magazines, books, and other multiple-paged items were not filmed in their entirety, but only the pertinent page(s), with the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.
Copies of this microfilm (M-135) of portions of the Ruth Baldwin Cowan Nash papers may be borrowed on interlibrary loan.
For a more specific list of the contents of the folders, see the inventory that follows. When requesting microfilmed material, please use the microfilm number (M-135) and the reel number.
  • M-135, reel #1: Folders 31f+, 158-205
  • M-135, reel #2: Folders 206-211, 213-232, 234-259
  • M-135, reel #3: Folders 260-335
  • M-135, reel #4: Folders 336-354, 356-384, 386-405
  • M-135, reel #5: Folders 406-437
  • M-135, reel #6: Folders 438, 440-447, 449-450, 453-458, 460-471, 473-476
  • M-135, reel #7: Folders 477, 479f+, 507, 515-516, 518-528, 574o, 679f+
  • Preferred Citation:

    Ruth Cowan Nash Papers, ca.1905-1990; item description, dates. MC 417, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


    Ruth Baldwin Cowan Nash, the only daughter of William Henry and Ida (Baldwin) Cowan, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 15, probably in 1901. Although the family was not Catholic, Ida Baldwin Cowan, a former teacher, placed Nash in St. Mary's Academy, a convent school. Nash attended the school until the death of her father, a mining prospector, in 1911; she and her mother then moved to Florida to establish a homestead. After a few years they returned to Salt Lake City, and Nash re-enrolled in St. Mary's. After she completed the 7th and 8th grades, they moved to San Antonio, Texas, where Nash boarded in the Ursuline Academy; she never lived with her mother again. She later worked in the book section of a department store while attending St. Michael's (1916), and then transferred to public school.
    While attending Main Avenue High School (1917-1919), Nash was invited by Elva Cunningham, president of the San Antonio Parent Teachers Association, to live with the Cunningham family (Elva, husband John, three sons, and Elva's sister, Mary Carter). The Cunninghams became a second family. After completing high school in two years, Nash attended the University of Texas at Austin (1919-1923), working her way through with a variety of jobs. While there she added the middle name "Barbara," but later changed it to "Baldwin" to please her mother.
    Following her graduation in 1923, she again lived with the Cunninghams and taught high school for two years before embarking on her journalism career. Beginning as a weekend movie reviewer, Nash soon became a reporter for the San Antonio Evening News, as well as a free-lancer -- using the name Baldwin Cowan -- for The Houston Chronicle and other papers. Her coverage of the 1928 Democratic National Convention in Houston resulted in a job offer from United Press. When her superiors at United Press discovered that "Baldwin Cowan" was a woman, they transferred her briefly to Austin to cover the state legislature until it adjourned, at which time she was let go; United Press refused to have women on its staff. She promptly contacted Kent Cooper of the Associated Press (AP), who offered her a job. She worked as an AP reporter for the next 27 years, covering a wide range of people and events, including gangsters in Chicago, Washington social life, Eleanor Roosevelt's press conferences, and various "human interest" stories. She is perhaps best known for her work as an overseas war correspondent during World War II.
    After covering the introduction and eventual passage (in May 1942) of the bill establishing the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs, which became the Women's Army Corps, or WACs, in September 1943), Nash requested that she be sent to accompany the first WAAC contingent to go overseas. She received permission from long-time friend and fellow Texan Oveta Culp Hobby, director of the WAACs; AP approval followed. Nash and Inez Robb of the International News Service, the first women to be accredited as U.S. Army war correspondents, were required to wear military uniforms, and were subject to military rules and regulations. In January 1943 the contingent landed in North Africa. In May, Nash moved to England, where she covered the arrival of WAACs in London, and preparations for the invasion of the continent; she took several trips to Normandy during the early days of the landing. In September 1944 she moved to France; she was in Paris during the liberation.
    Before returning home in April 1945, Nash covered stories from Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, the Riviera, and London. Many of her dispatches were about women and the war effort: WACs, nurses, English and Polish women in the military, and women in the French resistance. She also wrote of wounded soldiers, military field hospitals, new treatment methods and medicines, and the effects of war on civilians. In addition to the many limitations placed on women correspondents by the War Department and individual Army officers, at times Nash encountered considerable resistance from the AP itself. She wrote the AP to protest (see #101), and later recounted some of her difficulties in a memoir (#453-454) and interviews (#6-9at). Her determination and resourcefulness are described in books by Julia Edwards and Lilya Wagner (see below).
    After two years and four months overseas, Nash was re-assigned to AP's Washington bureau. After the war Nash covered the Pentagon, the House Armed Services Committee, and other military news. Eventually she resumed coverage of the White House, visits of foreign heads of state and ambassadors, and of what she called the "woman's angle": women's organizations, women in politics, social news, etc. She was active in several professional associations, including the Women's National Press Club, which she served as president, 1947-1948. Founded in 1919, the WNPC functioned as the women's equivalent of the National Press Club and the Gridiron Club, from which women were excluded. From a club specifically for "newspaper women," it evolved along with the changing news media to an association for "women professionally engaged in the gathering and dissemination of news." The WNPC decided to include men in 1971, and was renamed the Washington Press Club (WPC); it merged with the National Press Club in 1985. The WPC transferred its assets to the Washington Press Club Foundation, "a nonprofit corporation that exists to promote the ideals of equality and excellence that inspired the initial founders of the WNPC." The WNPC sponsored luncheons for members and guests featuring newsworthy figures (e.g., General George C. Marshall, Barbara Ward, James Forrestal, Eleanor Roosevelt), and held an annual "stunt party" that was well-attended by the Washington political elite, including President Truman and his family. In June 1956, Nash had to retire, as AP pension rules required that women retire at 55, though men could work until they were 65. She married Bradley De Lamater Nash (Harvard AB 1923), an expert in government operations who served in every administration from Calvin Coolidge through Dwight Eisenhower. They moved to High Acres Farm in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, but Nash's retirement did not last long. In May 1957 she became a public relations consultant to the Republican National Committee, and a year later followed Bertha Adkins to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), serving as Adkin's confidential administrative assistant until retiring once more in January 1961.
    Bertha Adkins, formerly assistant chairman of the RNC, assumed her HEW post in August 1958. Her areas of responsibility included the Federal Council on Aging (established in 1956); the Committee for Rural Development (established in Oct. 1959); the Interdepartmental Committee to Coordinate Urban Area Assistance Programs; the Joint Committee for Rural Development and Urban Area Assistance Programs; and the White House Conference on Children and Youth (WHCCY) and White House Conference on Aging. Nash's expertise and thoroughness in helping to develop and monitor agency policies, while foreseeing the political and social implications of those policies, is portrayed in Series VII. During this time (1958-1961), Nash also served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS).
    In retirement, Nash was active in various organizations in the Harper's Ferry area, and traveled to Eastern Europe in 1969; Bradley D. Nash was mayor of Harper's Ferry for many years. In 1984, the Nashes gave 50 acres to the National Park Service for a wildlife preserve in Harper's Ferry, dedicated to Nash and Senator Jennings Randolph's late wife, Mary Babb Randolph. Nash also worked to make High Acres Farm into a bird and wildlife sanctuary, which the Nashes plan to bequeath to the National Park Service and the Department of Natural Resources in West Virginia. Ruth Cowan Nash died in her sleep of natural causes on February 5, 1993.
    The following is a brief chronological resume.
    For additional biographical information, see #1-10; Julia Edwards, Women of the World: The Great Foreign Correspondents (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1988); Libya Wagner, Women War Correspondents of World War II (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1989); and entries in various Who's Who. The professional papers of Bradley D. Nash are in the Herbert Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa.


    The collection is arranged in seven series:


    Series I, Biographical and family (#1-64), includes documents explaining the lack of a birth certificate for Nash and her use of different names; job applications and security investigation data provided by Nash for federal employment; entries for various biographical dictionaries with accompanying correspondence; reminiscences by her and interview tapes and transcripts; correspondence and other papers about her University of Texas education (see especially her letter to her mother in #14); press passes, membership cards, certificates, tributes; articles by others about Nash; and numerous photographs of her from early childhood through about 1983.
    This series also contains papers relating to various relatives, including correspondence with the Central Oklahoma State Hospital, where Nash's mother was institutionalized for a number of years; correspondence about her mother's death while Nash was working overseas; papers relating to her father's death; letters from aunts and a cousin; photographs of various aunts and other, unidentified family members.
    There are a few papers of Bradley D. Nash, including press releases, biographical clippings, and a campaign card from his 1956 congressional campaign; a few letters to Nash; and photographs.
    Series II, Financial (#65-91), contains income tax returns and related documents; bank statements and canceled checks (see also #120); a sample of Nash's AP pay receipts; and papers concerning life insurance, personal property taxes, household receipts and inventories, purchase of a house in Washington D.C., etc.
    Series III, Correspondence and related papers (#92-157), consists primarily of personal and professional correspondence. In addition to Nash's original alphabetical sequence, a chronological sequence was created from the numerous letters found loose. See the index at the end of this inventory for names of correspondents.
    Personal and professional correspondence are intermingled. Nash's correspondence with the AP (#98-103) is particularly candid, discussing morale, personal ambition, the Army's obstruction of her pursuit of stories overseas, and so forth. Her early pursuit of journalism jobs is documented in #127. Several folders (#130-134) contain wartime correspondence, travel orders, letters of introduction and recommendation for Nash to present to foreign colleagues or officials, and related papers. The correspondence with the U.S. War Department (#117) contains an Nash letter describing the difficulties of hosting a racially segregated event to present War Department awards to journalists. Also included are letters about the possible publication of Nash's wartime memoirs ("Why Go To War"), and correspondence and clippings about Nash's inclusion in Julia Edwards's Women of the World.
    The respect and affection that colleagues and friends held for Nash is clearly documented in this series. It was not unusual for the subjects of her articles (e.g., Frances Perkins, Eleanor Roosevelt, the Landon family) to become her friends as well. There are many interesting letters written in response to Nash's marriage; those who merely sent cards with congratulatory remarks were listed (#149), and the cards removed from the collection. This was also done with holiday cards (#155). The alphabetical sequence includes personal correspondence with Elva Cunningham; Women's Army Corps Public Relations Officer "Hank" Horak; Senator Jennings Randolph (D-West Virginia); various Harper's Ferry garden clubs and historical associations; Hazel White (later Reavis); and the sisters of journalist Wiley Smith.
    The series also includes a few photographs, and some address books and lists.
    Series IV, Writings, speeches, notes and related papers (#158-528), includes Nash's early writings (a short story, movie reviews and other articles for the San Antonio Evening News and the Houston Chronicle, UP articles, etc.); typescript carbon copies ("flimsies") and clippings of articles for the Associated Press (AP) written in the United States and Europe; feature stories (not published) about Oveta Culp Hobby and Byron Price; a chapter in the Overseas Press Club Association's Deadline Delayed; and speeches.
    The clippings and articles in this series were too fragile for research use, and are therefore available only on microfilm (M-135). Clippings of articles by Nash originally found with the typescripts have been integrated chronologically in each folder; loose clippings were arranged chronologically and filmed separately.
    The bulk of Series IV consists of articles written for the AP. They are arranged in two main categories, as established by Nash: an alphabetical sequence of articles written while in the Washington bureau, and articles written while overseas covering World War II. The alphabetical sequence includes stories written before and after her overseas assignment (i.e., 1940-1942 and 1946-1956). These "Washington articles" were folded and stored in labeled envelopes by topic; mixed in were programs, guest lists, articles by others, a few letters, and miscellaneous related items. Published material by others was removed, and relevant items transferred to the Schlesinger Library's vertical files. Articles without by-lines or other identifying information were placed at the end of each folder. Most articles are signed "rbc" or "cowan," and most are dated by Nash. Many are marked with AP's classification as "AMS" (day-side) or "PMS" (night-side); Nash's AP designation was "rucow."
    Folder headings, contents, and alphabetical arrangement of "flimsies" are by Nash. Nash articles arranged chronologically within each folder; some folders also contain reference material and unattributed articles, maybe by Nash. Most clippings are in #165f+-166f+. Folder dates, added by the processor, refer to Nash stories, not to additional material. Information in brackets added by processor.
    Most (but not all) of Nash's dispatches from overseas carry dates written in the European style: day/month. The processor has consistently followed Nash's use when marking subsequent pages. Bracketed dates, added by the processor to undated items throughout the collection, are in U.S. style: month/day. In many cases there is a discrepancy between Nash's transmission date and the article's publication date. The processor has used the publication date (when noted on clippings) to date some of the typescripts.
    The numbers included in Nash's folder headings (e.g., "London #6") apparently refer to the numbered outline for her World War II memoirs (see #453). Copies of some articles may appear in more than one folder, dated in one place but not in the other.
    Some of Nash's notebooks (not filmed) have numbers precariously attached to their spines that perhaps correspond to the numbered folder headings. The notes include names and addresses of, and interviews with, soldiers, nurses, WACs, et al., information about field hospitals, and so forth. Some of the entries, written in faint pencil, are fading. The notebook numbered 486 has several pages of diary-like entries. There are also related materials, collected by Nash while overseas, including a U.S. counter-intelligence report on Germany (Nov. 1945) and a variety of memorabilia.
    The "Other writing" section begins with drafts of and correspondence about two feature-length articles, written for magazines but not published. "Mr. Price Goes to Hollywood" (ca.1946) details the career of AP executive Byron Price, his tenure as director of the Office of Censorship during World War II, and his move to Hollywood as vice-president of the Motion Picture Producers of America; "Mrs. Hobby and Gentleman" (ca.1954) recounts the life of Oveta Culp Hobby, the organizer and first director of the Women's Army Corps. Deadline Delayed (1947), a publication of the Overseas Press Club of America, is also filed here, with correspondence and reviews. Nash's published chapter about difficulties in keeping her hair bleached blonde to match her military credentials is missing; see #518 for the typescript. In addition there are two folders containing articles with no attribution.
    Speeches or remarks by Nash make up the last portion of this series. Included are a history of the AP (ca.1939); transcripts of several radio broadcasts from Europe (1943-1945); autobiographical remarks to a women's press association (1959); and undated comments about First Ladies.
    Series V, Professional associations and other memberships (#529-612), is an alphabetical sequence of press clubs and other organizations to which Nash belonged. There are membership directories, newsletters, constitutions, and/or other papers of the American Newspaper Women's Club, the Overseas Press Club of America, the Washington Newspaper Guild; and the Women's Press Club of London.
    Records of the Women's National Press Club (WNPC) constitute the largest segment of the series. Nash served as the club's president from July 1947 through June 1948. The records of her tenure include minutes, newsletters, financial reports, correspondence, and photos, programs, press releases, and related material for the many events sponsored by the WNPC, including her inauguration as president. The WNPC segment also contains correspondence with members, including Inez Robb; correspondence about the club's role in the controversy over the Navy's barring of a woman journalist (May Craig) from a battleship; letters from abroad requesting aid, and an essay in German about women and peace; some personal correspondence; Nash radio remarks and a speech to a women's club; and clippings about the WNPC (available only on microfilm).
    Additional club records include constitutions, a club history, member directories, and a body of papers relating to the club's preparation of a 50th anniversary book; as coordinator of the foreign correspondents Nash collected stories, photographs, clippings, and related material about their overseas assignments.
    This series also contains information about Nash's non-press memberships. There is a 1946 conference transcript from the National Civilian Advisory Committee for the Women's Army Corps, as well as minutes, reports, correspondence, membership lists, photographs, and other papers from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), 1958-1979 (scattered).
    Series VI, Republican National Committee (#613-625), contains letters of congratulation on Nash's appointment as Republican National Committee consultant and her replies (1957); various editions of "Women in the Public Service" (a series of leaflets compiled by the Republican National Committee), including Nash's 1958 compilation; "Work Now, Win in November," the handbooks for the Republican National Women's Conference including Nash's instructions for doing party publicity; and more general material on women in the Republican Party and in Congress.
    Series VII, United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) (#626-681), covers Nash's tenure as confidential administrative assistant to Under Secretary Bertha Adkins. The series documents Nash's involvement in all aspects of the programs for which Adkins was responsible. It includes personal congratulatory letters; general correspondence, including a chronological file; Nash's employment records; her 1960 engagement calendar; minutes of the Secretary's staff meetings; correspondence, memos, and minutes of the Federal Council on Aging (which Nash served as liaison) and related organizations; records of rural and urban area redevelopment programs, and of the White House Conference on Children and Youth; materials, including photographs, about Adkins; and a government personnel directory. Other government publications have been removed.
    Clippings and articles by and about Nash (#31f+; Series IV), clippings about the WNPC (#574o), and clippings about Bertha Adkins (#679f+), were fragile and closed to research use. They have been microfilmed; the film (M-135) is available for research. Most clippings were discarded after filming.
    Although documentation of Nash's pre-college years is scant, her career as a journalist is well represented. There are few "family" papers as such, in large part because she was an only child whose father died when she was young, and whose mother was not able to sustain their relationship. She apparently had little, if any, contact with other relatives until she was in her 30s. Marrying when she was 55, she and Bradley D. Nash had no children, but have generously contributed to scholarship funds and given substantial acreage for wildlife preservation.
    These papers portray a talented, witty, tenacious woman who was able to make her way in a field dominated by men; who was generous in her praise of others; and who earned the respect and affection of friends and colleagues.
    The following abbreviations of archival terms are used throughout the inventory.
    A letter or symbol after a file unit number indicates whether it is a volume, audiotape, or item of memorabilia, and the size if larger than 8 1/2" x 14".



    This is an index of correspondence primarily with Nash; in a very few cases, the recipient is her husband, BDN, or a colleague. Printed materials and information about persons and subjects are not indexed.
    All correspondence is indexed except the following. Invitations (#121, 129), letters of recommendation and/or introduction (#130), routine Army travel orders (#133), and the WNPC's "housekeeping" correspondence (scattered throughout Series V) have been omitted. In Series VII (which documents Nash's career at HEW), the recipients of Nash's letters, reports and memoranda are not included, nor are those writers who were government employees.
    In numerous instances correspondents signed only a first name. The processor included such writers in the index when she was reasonably sure of their identity; such entries are designated "?." A second alphabetical index, for those correspondents for whom only first names are available (and who were not readily identifiable by the processor), follows that of complete names.
    Writers with an AP affiliation are identified where possible. Although many colleagues wrote to Nash on AP letterhead, the AP entry refers only to those letters directly concerning Nash's dealings with the AP.

    Index of first names for whom family name is unknown

    Container List

    Additional Index Terms

    Deadline delayed
    Feature stories
    Foreign correspondents
    Houston chronicle (Houston, Tex. : 1901
    Journalism--Societies, etc.
    Motion picture journalism
    Newspapers--Sections, columns, etc.--Women
    Public relations and politics
    Regional planning
    Reporters and reporting
    San Antonio evening news.
    Sex discrimination against women
    Texas--Social life and customs--20th century
    United States--Officials and employees
    War correspondents
    Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs--20th century
    White House Conference on Aging (1961 : Washington, D.C.)
    White House Conference on Children and Youth (1960 : Washington, D.C.)
    Women and journalism
    Women journalists
    Women--Southern states
    World War, 1939-1945--Journalists
    World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
    American Newspaper Women's Club
    American Red Cross
    Associated Press
    Federal Council on the Aging (U.S.)
    Overseas Press Club of America
    Republican National Committee (U.S.)
    United Press Associations
    United States. Army. Women's Army Corps
    United States. Army. Women's Army Auxiliary Corps
    United States. Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services
    United States. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
    United States. Naval Reserve. Women's Reserve
    Women's Press Club of London