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The Swearing-in of Representatives Ruth Bryan Owen of Florida and Ruth Hanna McCormick of Illinois

April 15, 1929
The Swearing-in of Representatives Ruth Bryan Owen of Florida and Ruth Hanna McCormick of Illinois Image courtesy of Library of Congress Congresswoman Ruth Bryan Owen of Florida, daughter of “The Peerless Leader,” three-time Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, inherited her father's political gifts as a communicator and, like him, pursued a reform agenda in the House of Representatives.
On this date, Ruth Hanna McCormick of Illinois and Ruth Bryan Owen of Florida were sworn in with the other Members of the 71st Congress (1929–1931), for an extraordinary session called by President Herbert Hoover to address farm relief and tariff revision. The New York Times reported that McCormick and Owen entered the House Chamber “arm-in-arm” en route to the swearing-in—a spectacle because they were the daughters of two avowed political enemies. McCormick’s father was the late Marcus Hanna of Ohio, a Senator and powerful Republican kingmaker. Owen was the daughter of the late William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, nicknamed the Great Commoner for his populist appeal and soaring oratory that helped him secure the Democratic presidential nomination three times. McCormick, whose husband Medill had served in the U.S. Senate, was a key Republican Party operative, forging a massive network of Illinois women that propelled her to office in one of the state’s at-large seats. She served one term in the House before launching an unsuccessful bid as the first woman to seek a U.S. Senate seat on a major-party ticket. Owen, whose campaign dynamism recalled her father’s style, represented a 500-mile long district that stretched the length of Florida’s Atlantic seaboard. She served two terms in the House and eventually was nominated as U.S. Minister to Denmark by Franklin D. Roosevelt—the first American woman to serve at that rank. Rounded out by Ruth Pratt of New York, the trio of newcomer “Ruths” brought the total number of women in the House to eight—an all-time high. During the previous Congress, Speaker Nicholas Longworth of Ohio reportedly adopted the title “Gentlewomen of the House of Representatives” for the group. The New York Times reported that the Speaker considered the phrase “as more dignified and less threadbare than ‘ladies of the House.’”

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