Rest in Peace, Ruth

Ruth Bell Graham was 87 when she died, and she lived a life most women of today can’t imagine. Or don’t want to. At 21, she graduated from college and was set on returning to China, where she had grown up as the child of missionaries.

When Billy Graham asked her to marry him, it was with the admonition there would be no China. “Woman was created to be a wife and mother,” he told her. Today’s woman might have smacked him with a trout for that answer, but today’s Billy may not have used that quote, either. They lived in different times.

Ruth GrahamAnd that’s the point. For a woman who was a helpmeet and in the background, she was a powerful force who should be spotlighted for her own wisdom. She wrote 14 books and advised Billy Graham to keep him on the path to success. “Ruth kept Billy both loved and honest,” said Leighton Ford, brother-in-law to Billy, and also an evangelist.

it was Ruth who advised Billy to turn down an ambassadorship to Israel offered him by Richard Nixon, and Ruth who told Billy to decline endorsing Nixon for office. Perhaps she just didn’t think religion and politics were a good mix, perhaps she could see Nixon for the disgrace to the Presidency he would become.

Ruth focused on keeping Billy true to his gifts of public speaking and witnessing. William Maratin, Billy Graham’s biographer said, “Ruth knows who she is, while Billy is always auditioning.”

She was a force and a partner in the best sense of the word. Every day was not happy for her, but each day had a purpose. She was not a martyr, but she was, in a very big way, a feminist before her time.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, certified creativity coach, and journaling instructor. See her work at (c) 2007. All rights reserved. Image:

4 thoughts on “Rest in Peace, Ruth

  1. Jan and Lori–thanks so much for knowing that this woman was extraordinary, no matter who she was married to. Jan, your tribute is so beautiful and true. I often wish I had the strength to be that kind of a person–so true to the real spirit of womanhood–strong, a real sense of duty, focused and loving. A great example. I love the idea of having someone clean your house when you die! What a great idea!

  2. Ruth Graham was typical of most women of the ‘greatest generation.’ Service without recognition, sacrifice without complaint, and leaving a generation of excellently raised children and husbands behind her. One of my best friends (she’s more a blessing to me than I am to her!) is of this generation: worked hard through childhood, raised to do her duty as she saw it, allowed her husband to appear (and feel) to be the head of the house but everyone knew she was the real boss. A feminist without having to burn a bra or insult a man, she commands respect in her own quiet way and is loved by everyone who knows her. At 77, she still mows her own (and her 90 year old neighbor’s) lawn, does all her own housework, weeds her garden and treats even casual visitors as important guests. She’s agreed that if I die before she does (which is entirely possible–she’s healthy as a horse!), she’ll come clean my house before my funeral! LOL
    Our country could use another generation of these women!

  3. Quinn~
    We were in the Charlotte area when Ruth died and it was if the whole place were in a period of mourning. People drove their cars with their lights on, and the TV stations cancelled their programming to run shows about Ruth and Billy. The only thing I didn’t see were flags flying at half-staff. She was obviously well-loved.

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