Ruby Ana Holton

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Ruby Ana Holton (1895-1977)

Originally submitted by Grace Jones, Drake University, November 30, 2010

Ruby Ana Holton could “out-talk all men and most women when she has something on her mind.”[3] Holton was seen as a powerful force within the Des Moines community. She was a physical education professor at Drake University and head of the department during her time at Drake. She was also an out-spoken advocate for many different causes.


Ruby Ana Holton was born October 28, 1895 in Decorah, Iowa to Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Holton[1]. She received a bachelor of arts and a master of arts from Oberlin College in 1920[1]. Holton’s graduate major was psychology and philosophy and her minor was physical education. She taught briefly at Carthage College before coming to Drake in 1924[1]. From 1924-1927, Ruby was an assistant professor in the physical education department. At this point, the women's physical education area was in the basement of Old Main. From 1927 on, she was a full-fledged professor. By 1927, the field house had been built and the old men's gymnasium became the Women's Gym. One of the classes Holton taught was personal hygiene, a required course for every student[3]. Eventually, she became head of the physical education department. Ruby retired in 1966 at the age of 70. She retired with the honor of Professor Emeritus, the highest honor a faculty member can achieve[1].

Community Involvement

Miss Holton served for two terms on the Des Moines City Council from 1950-1955. She strongly regretted not running for a third term, calling herself "naive" for thinking her time was done[3]. Holton was also a member of the Board of Planned Parenthood, often showing disappointment in promiscuous young women. Holton upheld a strong faith in the human mind, saying that it is a “pretty tough organ[3]." She was also chairwoman of the Public Affairs committee of the Business and Professional Women's league. Holton created the Women's Recreation Association (WRA), which is similar to Intramurals. Furthermore, Holton was a strong advocate for physical health, arguing "good health is a part of good citizenship, that knowledge of the human body is one of the most important areas of learning for the person who would prepare himself for effective living[3]."


Holton died at the age of 81 in Des Moines, Iowa in May of 1977. She died knowing that she had made a difference in her community. Holton was “unafraid [to stand] up alone for something she thought was right, but normally she worked through organizations” so as to get the necessary results[4].


  • 1. Three faculty members retire. (1966, July). Drake University Magazine, 8.
  • 2. Bio Page, Ruby Ana Holton.
  • 3. McLaughlin, L. (1966, June 8). Ruby Holton keeps speaking out: retired, but she sees career in being ‘noisy.’ The Des Moines Register.
  • 4. Ruby Holton obituary. (1977, May 17). Des Moines Tribune.