Men and Women Should Be Equal...
Ruth Hale was born in Rogersville, Tennessee, in 1887. Her father was a horse breeder and a religious rebel who was thrown out of the Presbyterian Church. She was very close to her father and was devastated when he died when she was only eleven. Her Mother held more traditional views and this often caused discord with her rebellious daughter. Young Ruth had always been a free thinker and strong believer in women’s rights . Her mother openly opposed the feminist cause believing, and speaking out publicly, that a woman’s place was in the home and with her children. Probably because they clashed constantly, her mother sent her to Roanoke, Virginia when she was thirteen, to the Hollins Institute, to study music and painting. In 1903 she attended Drexel Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, studying painting and sculpture.
Ruth became more and more passionate about women’s rights and political reform. At the age of eighteen she became a reporter for the Washington Star. She eventually moved to New York City where she worked as a reporter for the New York Times and as drama critic for Vogue. She was also a member of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) that had been instituted by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. The group was influenced by the Women’s Social and Political Union in Britain, and attempted to employ the same militant methods used in Britain. They organized large demonstrations and picked daily at the White House.
In 1914, when she was 27, she met the journalist and sports writer, Heywood Broun at a baseball game. From the moment he was introduced to Ruth, he was quite intrigued by her. She was not a conventional beauty but she had a striking face, large gray eyes and dark blond hair with a willowy figure, small but well constructed. Her nose slightly too large and her cheekbones high. Her speaking voice was low and very musical. Her mind was polished hard and brilliant. She could usually dominate the conversation of a roomful of New York's sophisticates by charm or by force. It was charged that she preferred the latter. Apparent to him from the moment of their meeting were her curiosity, candor, vitality, mental vigor and her combativeness. He thought her the least coy and the least subtle female that he had ever met. She constantly laid it all on the line with no apology! She questioned, challenged and hammered away at every preconception that affected the male attitude toward women.
She and Broun developed a friendship taking long walks in Central Park and debating constantly. He stated that: "Nobody ever defeated Miss Hale in an argument." The relationship did not begin as a romantic one eventually he did ask her to marry him. She said a tentative yes, but only if he would agree to a marriage of equals. She would maintain her independence, her career, her identity and they would be equal heads of the household. They were wed on June 7th, 1917. She would never be known as Mrs. Broun but always as Ruth Hale. She had campaigned hard for the right of women to keep their birth names after they married as a symbol of their equity with their husbands. Haywood wanted children but Ruth insisted that only one child would be born of their union.
Immediately after the wedding they traveled to France to report on the first World war, she for the Chicago Tribute and he for the New York Tribune. She was one of the first women to report on the war. Broun said of Hale: "When we met we were reporters, and I have never denied that Ruth Hale was the better newspaper-man of the two.”
They returned to the U.S. in 1918. On March 10th, 1918 she delivered their son, Heywood Hale Broun. Her career languished a bit while he went on the become one of the country’s best known and most highly paid journalist with exceptional visibility and influence, which he used to fight for liberal causes and for the underdog.
Yet none of this would have been possible without Hale, who helped her husband think through and write a considerable portion of the articles that gave him such prominence. Some of their friends believed Broun would have remained a sportswriter if he had not married Hale. Much later, their son concluded: "She would have been who she was whether he existed or not. But he was very much her creation.”
She could not rid herself of the conviction that somehow, as long as she was married to Broun, she was deprived of her individuality, even her identity. The couple divorced in November of 1933 bur remained close. She died on September 18th, 1934. Broun wrote the next day in the New York Telegram: "My best friend died yesterday. I would not mention this but for the fact that Ruth Hale was a valiant fighter in an important cause. Concerning her major contention we were in almost complete disagreement for seventeen years. Out of a thousand debates I lost a thousand. Nobody ever defeated Miss Hale in an argument. The dispute was about feminism. We both agreed that in law and art and industry and anything else you can think of men and women should be equal.”