First Woman to Run for LB City Council in 1927, Educator, Early Woman Postmaster, Real Estate Investor, Philanthropist, Air Raid Warden
By Marilyn Tower Oliver & Melanie Werts
On March 13, 1927, The Long Beach Sun Newspaper wrote:
“A well-known Long Beach woman yesterday definitely announced her candidacy for election to the city council . . She is Mrs. Ruby Barham, who lives at 10 Magnolia Avenue . . . .She is the first woman candidate formally declaring her chapeau to be in the ring, although several others – all men – have indicated they would do likewise, and she states she will be the first woman in Long Beach actually to go through with the campaign for such an office.”
Ruby Barham was a trailblazing woman with strength and determination. Ruby was born in Waukon, Iowa in 1881. Her father was the president of a bank, and from him, she may have acquired her knack for business and real estate.
Ruby worked as a schoolteacher before marrying George Washington Tower in 1900. The marriage lasted only six years – she kept the title ”Mrs.” – and at age 25, Ruby and her two children moved to South Dakota. Her first real estate venture was a government homestead at Fort Bennet. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she was one of the first women in the United States to serve as postmaster a position she held for 6 years. While raising her children, she also opened a general store, enlarging it three times to accommodate her growing customer base, and owned a large herd of cattle.
Ruby and her children moved to Long Beach in 1915. Already an establised businesswoman, Ruby now focused on real estate. With borrowed capital she purchased the Eureka apartment building – her first, but not her last. She increased her holdings over time and employed eleven salesmen when she sold her business in 1923.
Ruby’s professional and philanthropic endeavors included membership in the Chamber of Commerce, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Long Beach Realty Board, the Soroptimist Club and the Rebekah Lodge. In 1924, Ruby was one of the 48 charter members of Soroptimist International of Long Beach, and served as its auditor.
As Ruby promoted her candidacy she stated,
“Being heavily interested in Long Beach property, I am vitally concerned in the city’s welfare and its development alone various progressive lines.”
Sadly, Ruby lost the election. Perhaps she was too progressive and ahead of her time.
She continued her business and civic ventures in Long Beach through real estate and operation of the All States Café, a neighborhood bar. During World War II Ruby was an air-raid warden. In 1944 she retired to Sierra Madre. She died in 1964 and is buried at Sunnyside Cemetery.
Julie Bartolotto, Project Director