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  1. Ruth Bryan Owen was a female pioneer in the film industry. She was a director, producer, and screenwriter for a feature film in 1922, called Once Upon a Time/Scheherazade, which is now considered to be lost. In the spring of 1921, she started production of Once Upon a Time.

  2. Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of “The Peerless Leader,” former Nebraska Representative and three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, inherited her father’s political gifts as a communicator and, like him, pursued a reform agenda in the U.S. House of Representatives. Known for her strenuous campaign efforts, oratory, and devotion to constituent services ...

  3. Envoy Ruth Bryan Owen. Ruth Bryan Owen was born in 1885 in Jacksonville, Illinois, the eldest daughter of three-time presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan and the former Mary Baird. The family moved to Nebraska when Ruth was two years old. She attended public schools in Nebraska and, after her father’s election to Congress in 1890, in ...

  4. Ruth Bryan Owen, The first woman elected to Congress from the South, she was the daughter of presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan. Born in Nebraska, she moved to Florida in 1918. She was a widow and the mother of four when she was elected to Congress in 1928, eight years after women obtained the right to vote.

  5. Ruth Bryan Owen. Ruth Bryan Owen (1885-1954) was a congresswoman, author, lecturer, world traveler, and the first woman ever to represent the United States as a diplomatic minister to a foreign nation. Active in many realms, congresswoman and diplomat Ruth Bryan Owen volunteered as a war nurse and also headed up numerous civic and educational ...

    • Moved to London Before World War I
    • Elected to Office in 1928
    • Became First Female Diplomat
    • Works Reflected A Life
    • Further Reading

    Owen entered the University of Nebraska in 1901. Her college career ended early, however, when she left schoolto marry William Homer Leavitt in October 1903. She served as her father's traveling secretary during his third presidential campaign, in 1908. The following year, she divorced Leavitt, with whom she had two children. In 1910, Ruth Bryan married Reginald Altham Owen, a British military officer assigned to the Royal Engineers. (They also would have two children.) She accompanied him to his post in Jamaica in the British West Indies and, after three years, the family moved to London at the start of World War I. When her husband, Reginald Owen, was called to the front, Owen served as secretary-treasurer of the American Women's War Relief Fund, an agency that operated a war hospital in Devonshire and five workrooms in London for unemployed women. She also traveled to the Middle Eastand served as a nurse with a voluntary aid group attached to the British Army during the Egypt-Pal...

    Owen entered Florida politics in 1926, losing the Democratic primary in the state's 4th Congressional District by a mere 770 votes. Two years later she tried again. During the campaign, Owen averaged four speeches a day, nurtured relationships with newspaper editors, and attracted attention by visiting every community in the 18-county district in a Ford coupe that was not yet publicly available. She defeated seven-term incumbent William J. Sears in the primary and followed her father into the U.S. House of Representatives. Her opponent during the general election, Republican William C. Lawson, contested the election results. Lawson contended that Owen was ineligible to hold Congressional office because she had lost her U.S. citizenship when she married an alien and did not recover it under the provisions of the 1922 Cable Act until 1925. Owen successfully defended herself before a House elections committee, while exposing deficiencies in the Cable Act. Owen entered the 71st Congress...

    In 1933, President Roosevelt appointed Owen Minister of Denmark—making her the first American woman to represent the country in such a role. "Her three-year mission in Copenhagen was mainly social," John Findling wrote in the Dictionary of American Diplomatic History, "although a minor controversy arose in 1934 when she used a Coast Guard cutter to travel to the United Statesfrom Greenland, a trip described as an 'extravagant junket' by congressional opponents." Owen was forced to resign her post in 1936, after marrying Captain Borge Rohde of the Danish Royal Guards—and a gentleman-in-waiting to King Christian X of Denmark. The marriage made Owen a citizen of both the United States and Denmark, so she could not continue her diplomatic assignment. Upon returning to the States, Owen and Rohde traveled the country in a trailer, campaigning for Roosevelt. In her later years, Owen lived in Ossining, New York, writing and lecturing. At one time, she was the best-paid platform speaker in t...

    In the book American Women Writers, Dorothea Mosley Thompson pointed out that Owen's writings reflect the changes in her career, locales, and activities. Her book Elements of Public Speaking, published in 1931, emphasized the principles that guided her as a lecturer: Orators are made, not born, she wrote, and clarity and simplicity are crucial elements of an effective speech. Leaves from a Greenland Diary and Caribbean Caravel recount Owen's travels. Denmark Caravan, a children's book, tells of thetrailer trip she and her children took through Denmark before she was appointed U.S. minister there. "Denmark Caravan sparkles with Owen's warmth and camaraderie with the people she encountered," Thompson wrote. The Castle in the Silver Wood,published in 1939, is a collection of fairy tales that perhaps reflect Owen's world view. "Many of the stories concern soldiers on their way home from the wars who meet witches or magical objects that test their courage," Thompson wrote. "All the tales...

    Women in Congress, 1917-1990,U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991, pp. 191-192. Mainiero, Lina, editor, "A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present," in American Women Writers,Vol. 3, Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1979, reprinted 1982, pp. 324-325. Burke, W. J., and Will D. Howe, American Authors and Books, 1640 to Present,Crown Publishers, 1972. Findling, John E., Dictionary of American Diplomatic History,Greenwood Press, 1989, p. 415. □

  6. Ruth Bryan Owen was endowed with intelligence, beauty, charm, and tremendous physical energy, and she knew how to use them all. Together with a burning ambition and a drive toward center stage, these qualities fueled a career that was a remarkable one for her time and place.

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