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Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms (1880-1944) was a United States Representative from Illinois and a prominent advocate for women’s suffrage.
Ruth Hanna was born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Marcus Alonzo and Charlotte Augusta Hanna. Her father was active in Republican politics; he was instrumental in William McKinley’s two Presidential campaigns and served as a Senator from Ohio as well as the Chair of the Republican National Committee. In these capacities, he worked closely with Theodore Roosevelt and the two developed a friendship.
After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Hanna joined her father in Washington, working as a secretary for him. She spent her time taking notes for Senator Hanna in the Senate Gallery, learning the political process. When Ruth Hanna came down with typhoid fever, President Roosevelt wrote to Senator Hanna, asking after his daughter’s condition.
In 1903, Ruth Hanna married Joseph M. McCormick, part of a political family that also owned the Chicago Tribune; the Roosevelts were among those invited to the wedding. The couple moved to Chicago where Hanna McCormick got involved in the settlement and pure foods movements, even opening her own dairy farm to ensure the community had access to untainted milk. The McCormicks were among those who contributed to the nascent Progressive Party, supporting Theodore Roosevelt’s political endeavors. Hanna McCormick also joined the women’s suffrage movement, taking on a leadership role in the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1913 and becoming director of the Republican Women’s National Executive Committee in 1918. The McCormicks stayed in touch with Roosevelt to the end of his life, with Roosevelt writing Joseph M. McCormick in 1915 hoping to arrange a visit and discussing the ongoing Mexican Revolution and contemporary American politics.
Joseph M. McCormick served as a Representative and then Senator from Illinois, but soon after losing re-nomination in 1924, he committed suicide. Hanna McCormick responded by organizing Republican women in Illinois, founding 90 women’s clubs in 102 counties in Illinois. These clubs helped in her 1928 run for the House of Representatives. She won election in 1928 and became the first woman to serve on the House Committee on Naval Affairs. Hanna McCormick was not content in the House, announcing in 1929 her intention to challenge the incumbent Republican Senator Charles S. Daneen in the primary. She defeated him with the support of Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson and Illinois Governor Lou Emmerson, defining herself in the campaign as a staunch isolationist. She lost the general election to Democrat James Hamilton Lewis, partially due to the independent Republican campaign of Lottie O’Neill, a rival of Hanna McCormick.
After her electoral loss, Hanna McCormick married Albert Gallatin Simms, a former colleague of hers when she was in the House of Representatives. In her remaining years, McCormick Simms founded a school, managed two newspapers and a radio station, sold her dairy farm and opened a cattle ranch in Colorado, and worked on Thomas Dewey’s 1940 presidential campaign. In 1944, she suffered a ruptured pancreas and died soon thereafter.
Sources and Further Reading:
“McCormick, Ruth Hanna,” Office of the Historian. http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/M/McCORMICK,-Ruth-Hanna-(M000372)/.
Miller, Kristie. Ruth Hanna McCormick: A Life in Politics 1880-1944. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1992.
Patrick, Jeanette. “Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms,” National Women’s History Museum. 2016. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ruth-hanna-mccormick-simms.
Shore, Amy. “Suffrage and the Silver Screen.” PhD dissertation, New York University, 2003.
Strickland, Arvarh E. “The Lady Candidate”: Ruth Hanna McCormick and the Senatorial Election of 1930.” Illinois Historical Journal 88, no. 3 (Autumn, 1995): 189-202.
Entry contributed by John Hest, M.A.