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Pioneering War Correspondent Ruth Cowan Dies at 91

February 6, 1993

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. (AP) _ Ruth Baldwin Cowan, one of the first female war correspondents of World War II, died Friday at age 91.

Cowan died in her sleep of natural causes, said her husband, Bradley Nash.

In 1943, Cowan, then a 42-year-old reporter for The Associated Press, became one of the first women accredited to an overseas military unit during the war, according to former foreign correspondent Julia Edwards. Cowan was sent to Algiers with the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.

She branched out from covering the women’s auxiliary corps and hospitals to actual battles. Cowan covered operations in North Africa, the invasion of Normandy, the liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge.

″She was superb. Her reputation was well-deserved. She was one of the few women correspondents covering the really big stories,″ said Edwards, author of ″Women of the World: The Great Foreign Correspondents.″

Cowan and other female war correspondents encountered resistance from their colleagues and military authorities, Edwards said.

Soon after Cowan arrived in Algeria, Edwards said, she met Gen. George S. Patton.

″So you want to be in the war? What is the first law of war?″ Patton asked.

″You kill him before he kills you,″ Cowan replied.

″She stays,″ Patton said.

Cowan was born in Salt Lake City in 1901, attended the University of Texas at Austin, and taught elementary school in San Antonio, Nash said.

Using the byline ″R. Baldwin Cowan″ to disguise her gender, she covered the Texas Legislature in Austin for United Press from 1927 until 1929, when a superior stopped into her bureau to praise her work, discovered she was a woman and fired her, Edwards said.

Cowan began working for the AP that year. She covered crime in Chicago in the 1930s, including gangster Al Capone, and transferred to AP’s Washington bureau in 1940 and its London bureau in 1941.

After the war, Cowan returned to Washington and covered government. She served as president of the Women’s National Press Club.

In 1956, she resigned from the AP and married Nash, who was deputy undersecretary of commerce. In 1958, she was appointed assistant to the undersecretary of health, education and welfare. Both served until the end of the Eisenhower administration.

Nash is former mayor of Harpers Ferry. There are no other survivors.

A funeral service was scheduled for Monday at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

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