Strang, Ruth (1895–1971)

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Strang, Ruth (1895–1971)

American educator and writer. Born Ruth May Strang on April 3, 1895, in Chatham, New Jersey; died from the effects of arteriosclerosis on January 3, 1971, in Amityville, New York; daughter of Charles Garret Strang (a farmer) and Anna (Bergen) Strang; graduated from a two-year normal program in household science, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, 1916; Teachers College of Columbia University, B.S., 1922, M.A., 1924, Ph.D., 1926; never married; no children.

Born in 1895 in Chatham, New Jersey, the daughter of a none-too-successful farmer, Ruth Strang moved frequently during her childhood, accompanying her family to various towns in New Jersey, Long Island, and Arizona. After they finally settled in Brooklyn, New York, she attended Adelphi Academy there, but her father, who had provided financial assistance for her older brother's college studies, dashed her hopes of continuing her education at Wellesley College. Entering a two-year program in household science at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Strang graduated in 1916 and thereafter taught home economics in a lower-income neighborhood in New York City. Against the protests of her family, she then entered graduate school at Columbia University's Teachers College. Over the next six years, she would earn three degrees there—a B.A. (1922), an M.A. (1924), and finally a Ph.D. (1926)—while also taking a number of positions at the college, including supervisor of health education at the Horace Mann School in 1924 and research assistant in psychology the following year.

Doctoral degree in hand, Strang next studied national trends in student personnel administration on a research fellowship from the school. She began her three-decade career at Teachers College as an assistant professor of education in 1929, becoming an associate professor in 1936 and a full professor in 1940. In 1930, she published An Introduction to Child Study (later republished several times with updated revisions), the first of some 400 articles, monographs, books and pamphlets she would write. She also edited the influential Journal of the National Association for Women Deans, Administrators, and Counselors, of which she was a member, from 1938 to 1960. Strang's major contributions to Teachers College involved her twin interests in educational guidance and the teaching of reading. She was a key figure in the evolution of the department of guidance and student personnel administration into a major center for graduate studies, and her research at and direction of the High School and College Reading Center supported the development of reading and communication in many educational institutions across the country. Among her most important publications in these fields were Educational Guidance: Its Principles and Practices (1947), The Role of the Teacher in Personnel Work (1953), Problems in the Improvement of Reading in Secondary Schools and High Schools (1938), and Explorations in Reading Patterns (1942).

Strang's other interests revolved around the disciplines of health education, the teaching of gifted children, education in rural areas, and psychology and mental health (her 1957 book The Adolescent Views Himself: A Psychology of Adolescence is considered one of her best). She served for several years as a director of the American Association for Gifted Children, was a member of the board of directors of the International Council for the Improvement of Reading Instruction and of the National Society for the Study of Education (becoming chair of the board for the latter organization in 1960), and was a longtime member of the National Association of Remedial Teachers, for which she served as president in 1955. She also belonged to the Research Association and the National Education Association. In recognition of her achievements in the field of education, she was named a fellow of the American Association of Applied Psychology, the American Public Health Association, and the United Kingdom's Royal Society of Health.

Retiring from Teachers College as professor emerita at the mandatory age of 65, Strang immediately became a professor of education at the University of California during the summer of 1960. That fall, her previous experiences with the teaching of reading led her to the University of Arizona, where she served as a professor of education and head of the reading development center until 1968. After a yearlong visiting professorship at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Strang finally retired, settling in Amityville, New York. There she struggled with arteriosclerosis until her death in 1971.


Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1960. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1960.

Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.

Helga P. McCue , freelance writer, Waterford, Connecticut