Ruth Byran Owens: First Woman to Serve as U.S. Ambassador Visits El Paso

Ruth Byran Owens, daughter of reformer and presidential candidate William Jennings Byran who was also known as”The Great Commoner,” came to El Paso on October 17,1935. Owens was famous in her own right. Owens was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Florida in 1928, and she was among the early women filmmakers in the United States.

In 1922 she directed and produced “Once Upon a Time/Scheherazade” which is now considered lost. In 1933, Owens was appointed by FDR as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark and Iceland. She was the first woman to serve as U.S. Ambassador. Owens also attended the San Francisco Conference that created the United Nations in 1945 and also was appointed by President Truman in 1948 as an alternate delegate to the U.N. General Assembly.

When she came off the plane in Juarez she told Mexican officials, “What a fascinating country you have.” There greeting her were officials from the United States and from numerous groups and organizations. Owens was also serenaded by the Tipica Orchestra from El Paso. Owens went from the airport to Radford School where she attended a special luncheon organized by the faculty.

After her lunch at Radford, she was escorted by Mexican cavalry from the international bridge to a Juarez Military Garrison and also got to visit the Mayor of Juarez and U.S consulate there. She was there to promote a book she was writing. Owens came to El Paso as a guest of the Altrusa, a woman’s organization that had chapters in the United States and Mexico. The group organized a lecture given by Owens at the Scottish Rite Temple. Her visit was well received.


Joseph Longo

EPCHS Volunteer

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.