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Ruth Chickering Clusen (1922–2005) was an American conservationist, politician, civil rights activist, and government official. She is remembered for serving as the president of the League of Women Voters, for hosting the debates between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and for serving as the Assistant Secretary of Energy under President Jimmy Carter.

Ruth Clusen
Bruce, Wisconsin
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
OccupationPresident of the League of Women Voters
Known forEnvironmental and Civil Rights activism

Early lifeEdit

Clusen was born in Bruce, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, graduating in 1945 with a degree in secondary education. She began her career as a teacher at the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Montana.[1]


We speak dry words at times, but if one has eyes to see and

the mind to perceive that what we are working for is the quality of our environment in this and the next generation,

one cannot but feel a quickening of the senses.

Ruth Clusen

Clusen began her national career as the president of the League of Women Voters, a position she held from 1974 to 1978. During her tenure, Clusen was instrumental in bringing issues relating to the environment to national attention. She was especially concerned with water purity, a fixation that stemmed from her time spent in Green Bay where water contamination was a problem.[2] Additionally, Clusen fought for women's rights. She was a leading figure in the League's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ratify an equal rights amendment for women. Additionally, in her role as president, Clusen served as the presidential debate moderator for Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.[3] Her role as moderator was famously parodied by Lily Tomlin on Saturday Night Live.[4]

After Carter won the election, he appointed Clusen to serve as the Assistant Secretary for the Environment at the United States Department of Energy. She held the position from 1978 to 1981. Clusen worked for a reduction of fossil fuel consumption at the Energy Department. After an unsuccessful bid for the United States Congress, Clusen finished her career as a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, the governing body of the University of Wisconsin System.[5]


  1. ^ "UW-Eau Claire University Bulletin". Archived from the original on 2005-04-12. Retrieved April 10, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ Andrea Wetzel (April 14, 2002). "Ruth Clusen 1922–" (PDF). Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  3. ^ "Ruth Clusen, Civic Leader and U.S. Official, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 17, 2005. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Robinson, Peter M. (2010). The Dance of the Comedians. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 201. ISBN 1558497854. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  5. ^ Lerner, G. (2009). Living with History / Making Social Change. University of North Carolina Press. p. 205. ISBN 9780807887868. Retrieved April 10, 2015.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Lucy W. Benson
President of the League of Women Voters
Succeeded by
Ruth Hinerfeld