McKenney, Ruth


Born: November 18, 1911
Died: July 27, 1972
Ohio connection: Former Resident

Ruth McKenney, an award winning journalist for the Akron Beacon Journal, was born on November 18, 1911, in Michawaka, Indiana, and was raised in East Cleveland, Ohio. While attending Shaw High School, McKenney worked as a printer’s apprentice and joined the International Typographical Union, widely recognized as one of the most progressive and ethical unions in the country. She continued her education at Ohio State University, majoring in journalism and working for the Columbus Citizen and the International News Service, but accepted a writing position with the Beacon Journal before she earned her degree. While working for the paper, McKenney was twice named the “best in Ohio” by the Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association. Her stories, a colleague said, “brought wayward and wandering husbands back to their wives, saved poor children’s dogs from death in the dog pound and caused food and dollars to find their way to charity baskets.” McKenney left Akron in 1934, briefly worked in New Jersey, and then headed to New York City to begin a new chapter in her life. In New York, McKenney finished writing her most controversial and self-professed “best” work, Industrial Valley. Despite the notoriety of Industrial Valley, however, McKenney is most famous for her best-selling book My Sister Eileen which began as a series short stories published in the New Yorker magazine. The book, later made into a Broadway play, a musical, and a feature film starring Rosalind Russell, was about McKenney’s relationship with her popular, beautiful sister and the real-life adventures they had together. She continued the story of their adventures in The McKenneys Carry On. Continuing the familial theme in her work, McKenney wrote The Loud Red Patrick in homage to her grandfather. The book, about a widower raising four daughters in Cleveland in 1912, also became a Broadway play. Other writings by McKenney include Jake HomeLove StoryAll About EileenFar, Far From Home, and Mirage. She was also feature writer for the New York Post, a contributor to Harper’s and writer and editor for New Masses, a Communist weekly. McKenney died in New York City on July 27, 1972.

Received several awards from Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association; Best Fiction Book award at Writer’s Congress, 1938 and 1939, for Industrial Valley.