Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ruth Frandsen, 85, retired journalist

Ruth Gmeiner Frandsen, who was in the vanguard of women breaking into the newspaper ranks in Washington during and after World War II, died June 10 of complications from pneumonia at the Sligo Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Takoma Park. She was 85.

Mrs. Frandsen covered the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House and Congress for the United Press news service.

Born Feb. 11, 1919, in Pueblo, Colo., she grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., and Adrian, Mich. She attended Adrian College for two years before receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri.

She was the first female reporter to cover the Supreme Court. One of the highlights of her career — and one of her last stories — was the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that banned school segregation.

Mrs. Frandsen also covered the post-World War II “red scare,” most notably the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of State Department official and accused spy Alger Hiss.

Mrs. Frandsen began her career in Washington shortly after the United States entered World War II. She was hired by United Press to take dictation from reporters phoning in stories.

Later she was promoted to reporter and covered several federal agencies before landing at the Supreme Court. She later went to the White House to cover first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and became a feature writer who covered everything from the 1948 and 1952 political conventions to the theory of alcoholism being a disease. She was also an officer in the Newspaper Guild.

Mrs. Frandsen covered many of the most notorious trials of that time, including those of Puerto Rican terrorists who tried to assassinate President Truman and who opened fire on members of the House from the public galleries.

She retired from United Press in 1954 to marry Julius Frandsen, the wire service’s Washington news editor. On Aug. 8, 1954, the Washington Star carried a brief item on the pending wedding that day, referring to the bride and groom as “a well-known couple in newspaper circles.”

Mr. Frandsen died in 1976.

Mrs. Frandsen was a longtime animal rights activist who was on the board of the Montgomery County Humane Society. She lobbied for anticruelty laws at the state and federal levels, and even took part in a raid on a Virginia operation accused of stealing dogs and other animals, then selling them to laboratories for experiments.

She became a resident the Sligo Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 1997 after breaking a hip.

Mrs. Frandsen is survived by her son, Jon Frandsen of Takoma Park; a brother, John Gmeiner of Sandwich, Mass; a grandson and a step-granddaughter.

Memorial services are pending.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Washington Press Club Foundation for its scholarship program or the Montgomery County Humane Society.

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