The Caltech Institute Archives

Interview with Ruth J. Hughes

Hughes, Ruth J. (2002) Interview with Ruth J. Hughes. [Oral History]

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Born and educated in Germany, Ruth Hughes emigrated to England in 1939, just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Having been denied access to university training in medicine because she was Jewish, she had decided to study nursing and was hired as a student nurse in Birmingham, England, where she spent the war years. In her three-session interview in 1998-1999, she recalls her decision to leave England for the US (1946) and her chance meeting with Barbara Low, a crystallographer and student at Oxford under Dorothy Hodgkin; and through Low her introduction to Edward Wesley Hughes, a Caltech research associate in chemistry and a crystallographer. Ruth Hughes works in the US as a nurse in New York and Boston; she marries Edward ("Eddie") in England during his sabbatical at Leeds (1951); his interest in car tours and motion picture photography helps in the formation of a social group. Recalls her husband's assignment to represent Linus Pauling at the Royal Society in London, early 1952; her meeting then with Pauling's colleague Robert Corey and his wife. The Hugheses return to Pasadena by way of South Africa and South America. Account of Caltech in the early 1950s: her early involvement with the Women's Club and introduction to Doris DuBridge (wife of Caltech president Lee A. DuBridge); the Hugheses' close connection with the Paulings; Mrs. Pauling (Ava Helen) and her political and social ambitions; social expectations on Caltech wives at that time; her husband's loyalty to Pauling and the various tasks imposed on both of them as a result, especially the entertaining of visitors; the nature of the Pauling circle. Her involvement with Pauling's petition to the UN on a nuclear test ban; her husband's and other's opposition to Pauling's political work. Her interest in meeting and assisting Chinese and Japanese visitors; the Caltech Service League and Chem Wives. Circumstances of the Paulings' departure from Caltech. Current recognition of Caltech widows by Alice Huang.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:chemistry, women
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Hughes_R
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Hughes, Ruth J. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, December 1998-January 1999. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Chemistry
Subjects > Administration
ID Code:112
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:20 Oct 2005
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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