Ruth Grant Pearson: foundational faculty, incidental historian

Ruth Grant Pearson (center) amid the Foster School faculty of 1928.

Ruth Grant Pearson (BA 1925, MBA 1928) wasn’t the first woman to serve on the faculty of the UW College of Economics and Business Administration (as the Foster School of Business was called in the early days after its founding in 1917).

But she certainly made a historic impression.

After completing her undergraduate and graduate studies in business, Pearson graduated directly to a faculty post, heading the new college’s merchandising curriculum from 1926 to 1931. In 1928 she established the progressive Women’s Vocational Club, an organization promoting networking among women professionals working in Seattle’s nascent business community. Dean William E. Cox named it “outstanding project of the year.”

Beyond her role as a founding mother of a school that now educates as many young women as men, Pearson left a more tangible legacy as well.

With family roots that stretched all the way back to the Mayflower, Pearson took it upon herself to become a serious steward of history—both familial and national.

Her Seattle home was a veritable museum of family artifacts and ephemera, which she curated as carefully as if it were a branch of the Smithsonian.

According to a 1955 story in the Seattle Daily Times, Pearson’s private collections included:

  • An ancestral Bible inscribed with a family genealogy dating back ten generations.
  • An original print of the journal Of Plimouth Plantation, the essential account of the fledgling colony by Governor William Bradford, her sixth great-grandfather.
  • A letter penned by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, sent across the Atlantic on the Fortune in December 1621 to report on the colony’s first Thanksgiving and the generosity of Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoag people, whose patient teaching of their techniques of planting, fishing and cooking were the settlers’ salvation.
  • A pewter teapot and spinning wheel dating back to the early 18th
  • A colorful blanket dating to the early 1800s, woven on that same family spinning wheel.
  • A one-of-a-kind wall clock fashion from an upside-down banjo.

Pearson also lovingly compiled at least 50 scrapbooks. Most recorded family affairs. One, though, which was unearthed a few years ago from the basement of old Mackenzie Hall, chronicled the first 50 years of the Foster School of Business.

This keepsake, compiled on the golden anniversary of Pearson’s alma mater and former employer, is a treasure trove of rare photographs and ephemera, newspaper clippings and personal memories. Its discovery has provided one of the most tactile touchstones we have of the Foster School’s heritage.

Pearson lived more than a quarter century after creating the scrapbook in 1967. She passed away in 1993 at the age of 98.

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