The Brandywine Health Foundation is proud to shine a spotlight on a few local African American trailblazers and innovators, sister and brother Ida Ella Ruth Jones and William Chester Ruth. In the sea of virtual events and racial equity conversations, the foundation pondered how best to acknowledge Black History Month. We decided to look at the societal contributions of local African Americans and was ecstatic to learn that one of our very own Brandywine Health Foundation board of director’s, Gwen Dickinson’s lineage is quite significant. Gwen is the great niece to Ida Ella Ruth Jones and granddaughter of the late William Chester Ruth. Ida Ella Ruth and William Chester Ruth born to a former slave and a free woman were Chester County, PA natives, raised on a farm in East Fallowfield Township. Gwen Dickinson is a local resident in the Greater Coatesville community and carries on her family lineage by lifting community voice for positive community-driven solutions.
When Gwen shared her family history with the Brandywine Health Foundation, we immediately knew this was an opportunity to share her family’s strength within the Black community and their contributions far and wide.
Ida Ella Ruth Jones and William Chester Ruth
Ida Ella Ruth Jones was born in 1874 and was a self-taught artist who completed more than 300 paintings and pencil sketches after the age of 70. Her works illustrated personal observations of family and farm life, nature, landscapes, early technologies, human interaction, and slavery. Among the many accolades her work has been acknowledged by New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
William Chester Ruth was born in 1882, a businessman and an inventor, was awarded the first of his many patents in 1928. He invented numerous pieces of farm equipment and machinery and opened his own Blacksmith Shop. At the beginning of WWII, he was commissioned by the US Government, to design and manufacture secret wartime devices for airplanes and bombsites. Prototypes of some of his inventions are on display at Pennsylvania’s Landis Valley Farm Museum, Lancaster, PA. In addition, his biography was chosen for inclusion in the inaugural edition of The African American National Biography – Editors Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.
This sister and brother duo’s work and accomplishments have been acknowledged by The Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission by placement of markers. Ida’s marker stands on land upon which they were raised and where she lived until her death in 1959. Its site is several miles south of Coatesville, PA on Route 82. William Chester’s marker can be found on the north side of Route 30 in Gap, PA at the site of his former business and manufacturing site. The Brandywine Health Foundation is proud to amplify their work during Black History Month as trailblazers and innovators in driving change and shaping today’s history. Gwen, thank you for allowing us to share your family’s story.