Ruth Bryan Owen Florida’s first female Congresswoman

On this week’s Florida History Podcast, we discuss Florida’s first female member of Congress – Ruth Byran Owen.

Many political nuts do not know that William Jennings Bryan, one of the most significant politicians of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s relocated to the Miami area in the later part of his life. The three-time Democratic nominee moved the party towards economic populism and social conservatism. Bryan was the most feared man in America on Wall Street and among corporate trusts but also was a prohibitionist and ended his life defending creationism in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

A gifted orator, Bryan passed many of his political gifts and issue positions on to his daughter Ruth Bryan Owen. More worldly and better traveled than her famous father, she ran for Congress in 1926. In those days, Democratic Primaries in Florida were tantamount to election. Owen lost the primary but two years later ran again and defeated William Sears in Florida’s First Congressional District which in those days ran from Jacksonville to Miami.

As Florida and Southeast’s first female member of Congress, and the daughter of one of the most famous Americans, Owen was constantly under the microscope. She was reelected in 1930 but lost renomination in 1932 to Mark Wilcox who sought the repeal of prohibition. Owen then went on to become the first female US Ambassador serving as the American envoy to Denmark in Franklin Roosevelt’s first term.

Owen continued to be in demand and was sent on various Presidential missions by Roosevelt and Harry Truman. She passed away in 1954.

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