Southfield (WWJ-TV) - Michigan’s journalism community lost a trailblazer for women with the passing of Ruth Cain, former writer for Associated Press, Detroit Free Press and other places, who succumbed to heart failure Saturday at the age of 87.
Mrs. Cain, born Ruth Edstrom, was a Detroit native and Detroit Public Schools graduate who fell in love with journalism through her brother, a reporter. She rushed through college at Wayne State University so that, at age 19, she could get in at the Associated Press before the end of World War II.
“Once the war ended, they would never hire a woman,” she said last year at an American Association of University Women event in Grosse Pointe.
During her storied career, Mrs. Cain also worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in the media relations department for 22 years.
“Ruth Cain was a spirited and dedicated member of our communications team at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for many years” said Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “She accomplished many things in her lifetime, but certainly her most important accomplishment is the lasting legacy she built as the matriarch of a family of communicators that have really made a difference in Michigan. She will be greatly missed” he added.
Besides Associated Press and Detroit Free Press, she was a writer for Business Week and a columnist at the Macomb Daily and Oakland Press. She was a columnist writing about senior issues for the Grosse Pointe News at the time of her death. When Mrs. Cain retired from Blue Cross, she was honored by then Gov. John Engler and others including the Detroit Chapter Society of Professional Journalists who proclaimed her “the mother of all communicators.”
She was a role model who blazed a trail as she combined a career and family at time most women didn’t work. “During a time when women were almost never hired to report the news, Ruth refused to accept ‘no’ for an answer,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow. “She was a trailblazer, who paved the way for so many young women who wanted a career in journalism. She will be remembered as one of the most-respected journalists in Michigan.”
Mrs. Cain served as president for two years of the Detroit Chapter of Women In Communications and won its prestigious Headliner of the Year award in 1984 for “distinguished achievements in communications.” She also helped bring the national WICI convention to the Motor City the only time it was. She won numerous awards and acclaim through her career.
“Most women were encouraged to go into teaching or nursing,” Mrs. Cain recalled at the American Association of University Women’s event. “But I watched my older brother (Edward Edstrom, who worked as a reporter for Hearst Newspapers in Washington D.C.) and all the exciting stories he covered and knew that was what I wanted to do!”
“Ruth Cain was well ahead of her time as a working mother and tremendously successful career woman,” said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, who runs a Lansing communications firm. “Not only was she an icon for professional women who knew we could have it all – fulfilling careers and wonderful families – but she did it with such grace, dignity and wit that we never knew how much of a pioneer she truly was.”
Family Of Journalists
Mrs. Cain was the wife of the late journalist Charles C. Cain III. It was ink in the vein the couple shared that brought them together at the Associated Press in the 1940s that left an imprint on journalism in Michigan. Ruth Edstrom was an upstart 19-year-old Wayne State University graduate who had joined the Detroit office in the then-male dominated industry while most were serving in World War II. It was fate that brought Charles Cain, of Attleboro, Mass., where his family owned the Attleboro Sun Times, to the Motor City. He had returned from active duty in the Army and worked for Associated Press. He was transferred to help run the news service’s Detroit bureau. They met and were married for 41 years and six of their seven children went into communications: Nancy Cain (public relations director at AAA Michigan); the late Charlie Cain (longtime Lansing bureau chief at The Detroit News who died of cancer in July), Brad Cain (Associated Press) Chris Cain (nuclear physicist in Utah) Carol Cain, senior producer/host of WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters” and columnist at Detroit Free Press, Laura Cain (vice president of communications of McDonald’s Corp.) and Janice Cain (marketing communications advisor in Denver).
She is also survived by her grandchildren: Kelly Cain, Katie Cain, Nick Posavetz, Charles Cain, Amanda Cain and Robert Cain. Sons-in-law Dave Posavetz is chief photographer for Macomb Daily and Rob Kozloff a photo editor at Chicago Tribune. Her late brother was also deputy assistant to then U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. And his late wife, Eve Edstrom, was a political writer at Washington Post and panelist on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
Mrs. Cain spent time in her later years working as a mentor and helping young people at DPS learn to read. She was actively involved in the community through initiatives like Meals on Wheels for seniors and other programs.
A memorial mass will be held 10 a.m. Friday at St. Paul’s Church at 147 Lake Shore Road, Grosse Pointe Farms. In Lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations to the Wayne State University Journalism Program at 902 West Warren Ave, Room 557, Detroit, MI 48201.