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Title Oral History of Ruth White Bowie
Collection Oral History
Scope & Content Ruth White Bowie was one of Mill Valley's grande dames in the true sense, though she would have deplored the use of the term. Ruth was born in San Francisco, and she and her twin sister were educated at Miss West's private school in the city, then at the Waltham School for Girls near Boston and Briarcliff Manor on the Hudson. In 1910, Ruth married Ralston L. White, a member of one of Mill Valley's most influential families. In this oral history, Ruth recounts her life with Ralston at the "Garden of Allah," one of the show places of the Bay Area.

The Whites took in stride the 1929 market crash, which not only wiped them out financially but left them deeply in debt. They leased their Mill Valley home for $250 a month, half of which went to their gardener, Alphonse Haapa, who remained at the Garden of Allah. They then went abroad for seven years, living in inexpensive pensions and using a part of their meager income for travel - on foot or bicycle. Ralston passed away in 1943, and in 1951, in honor of her husband, Ruth offered the Garden of Allah in trust to the California Academy of Sciences. In 1957, she donated the property, which would be renamed the Ralston White Retreat, to the Northern California Conference of Congregational Churches. For many years the Retreat has hosted group retreats and special events. In 1954, Ruth had travelled to Rio de Janeiro with her brother and sister-in-law, where she met Dr. Robert Bowie. The two were married the next year. Ruth and Robert would go on to travel the world together and split their time between Mill Valley and Colorado.

Editor's Note: The transcript and recording for this oral history differ significantly.
Audio and Transcript Click here to hear recording.
Click here to read the transcript.
Dates of Creation 1969-11-01

Narrator's name Bowie, Ruth White
Interviewer Wilson, Joe and Carol
Extent and Medium Transcript: 21pp
Recording: 00:56:56
Search Terms 1929 Fire
Boericke, William,
Bowie, Rob,
Corte Madera Creek
Cushing, Sidney
Dowd, Irvine
Eastland, Joseph
Eastwood, Alice
Estate houses
Garden of Allah
Gardner, Jacob
Haapa, Alfonso
Homestead Valley
Kenilworth Hotel
Land Auction
Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway
Norris, Kathleen
North Pacific Coast Railroad
O'Shaughnessy, Michael M.
Polk, Willis
Symmes, Jean
Symmes, Laurence
Tamalpais Land and Water Company
Throckmorton Ranch
White, Lovell
White, Ralston Lovell
World War I
World War II
Object ID 1969.001.001
Object Name Recording
Copyrights Transcript and recording copyright Mill Valley Public Library, 1969. Materials are made available for research purposes only; all rights are reserved to the Mill Valley Public Library. Requests for permission to quote for publication or for any other usage must be obtained from the Library.