TCU Special Collections is pleased to announce that the Ruth Millett Papers are open for research. Ruth Linwood Millett was born February 10, 1912 to Ralph and Alice Millett in Dallas, Texas. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Ralph Millett, was a columnist and editor of the Memphis Press-Scimitar. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Millett became dean of women at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in Maryville. She eventually moved to New York City to follow in her father’s footsteps and pursue a career in journalism. Millett soon began writing two syndicated columns, Mind Your Manners and Ruth Millett Says . . . (later titled We the Women), for the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). She married Dr. Frederick Lowry and became a mother of twins. The family moved around the Midwest a bit before settling in Austin, Texas. Millett continued writing her columns until her retirement in 1967. During her 30 year career, she received thousands of letters from readers and was named one of the U.S.’s top ten most powerful women by Pageant magazine in 1953. She was also honored by the New York Newspaper Women’s Club, Theta Sigma Phi, a fraternity for women writers, and named the Austin American Statesman Career Woman of 1963. Ruth died April 16, 1997 in Austin.
The Ruth Millett Papers include professional and personal correspondence, photographs, printed material, speeches, writings, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and newspaper “slicks,” glossy pages printed with a week’s worth of Millett’s columns and distributed to newspapers by NEA for reproduction. Her column We the Women addressed women’s issues of the mid-20th century, from education and career, to homemaking, etiquette, personal relationships, and popular culture. Of note are Millett’s columns addressing the changes in women’s lives brought about by the Great Depression, World War II, and cultural movements of the 1950s and 1960s. She was a strong advocate for women taking a larger role in society, and spoke out against the unequal treatment women often faced in the workplace. However, Millett also held women’s traditional roles as wives and mothers in high regard and urged them to take a strong role in leading their households. Millett wrote several booklets which offered advice for wives, husbands, and teenagers. She focused specifically on maintaining healthy relationships, family bonding time, and well-kept homes. This collection offers unique insight into the lives of middle class American women in the 20th century and how they coped with changing roles, expectations, and perceptions.
The collection is available for research in the Special Collections Department of the Mary Couts Burnett Library Monday through Friday from 8-5.