Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Ruth Addie Gay, 1869-1930

By Tally D. Fugate, Independent Historian

Born on July 19, 1869 in Iowa City, Iowa to John Ranney and Adelaide Harriet Gay, Ruth Addie Gay was the youngest of five children. She received her physician's license from the Iowa State Board of Medical Examiners in 1896 when she graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Drake University in Des Moines. She graduated from the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 18, 1904.

By 1906 Gay and her family had settled in Oklahoma Territory where she worked as a physician on the staff for the Oklahoma City Rescue Home. Eventually, she established her own practice, as one of three women physicians to open an office in Oklahoma City. Outside of her practice she devoted time to educating mothers and young girls regarding the importance of women's healthcare. She was a member of the Oklahoma City Nurses Club, often giving lectures under the auspices of the Home and School League and during Baby Week Programs. With her background Gay would naturally have an interest in rights for women, including suffrage.

As a member of the Oklahoma Woman's Suffrage Association, a NAWSA chapter, Gay frequently held meetings at her office and banquets at her home. From 1909 to 1911, she served as the association's treasurer leading the finance committee and fund raising efforts. She participated in state conventions, prepared petitions, and hosted guests, such as Ida Porter-Boyer, when she was sent by the national association to do work in Oklahoma. Gay served as president of the association from 1911 to 1913. While president she sacrificed time away from her practice and recruited her parents, with whom she still lived, into service by addressing women's suffrage literature. Described as a “dynamo,” Dr. Gay verbally rattled Jane Haskell, the daughter of Oklahoma Governor Charles Haskell, over the issue of women's suffrage. The newspapers reported that Jane Haskell was “perfectly willing to don boxing gloves” as the most effectual means of settling the question of votes for women. “Dr. Gay believes women should act like men; perhaps she would rather put on the gloves than fight with the tongue,” said Haskell. Little is known about the remainder of Gay's life. Buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, Oklahoma City, she died on November 1, 1930. She was single with no children.


U.S. Federal Census, 1870, Bruce, Benton County, Iowa, accessed on, June 23, 2017. Industrial Democrat (Oklahoma City, Okla.) 26 February 1910. U.S. Federal Census, 1910, Oklahoma City Ward 6, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, accessed on, June 23, 2017. Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage 1900-1920 (New York: National American Woman's Suffrage Association), 525. The Shawnee Daily Herald (Shawnee, Oklahoma), 30 December 1910. The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), 3 November 1930. Polk's Medical Register and Directory of North America (R. L. Polk and Company, 1906), 1703. Iowa Public Health Bulletin, Vol. 10. (Iowa State Department of Health, 1896), 183. International Record of Medicine and General Practice Clinics (MD Publications, 1912), 1049.

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