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from the Billy Graham Library

International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Most Influential Woman of BGEA

March 4, 2021


Ruth Bell Graham

Wife, mother, prankster, and poet – Ruth Bell Graham was a well-rounded, good-humored woman. From the early stages of Billy Graham’s ministry, Ruth was by his side. “When it comes to spiritual things, my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry,” Billy Graham proudly proclaimed. Ruth Bell Graham’s contribution to the ministry is far beyond what can be explained on paper. She selflessly supported her husband and family, and paved the way for the Gospel to go forth.

Billy and Ruth Graham traveled through war-torn Europe with Cliff and Billie Barrows in 1947

In 1947, four years into Billy and Ruth’s marriage, the young couple traveled to Europe for their first evangelism trip overseas. Ruth traveled along for two months and left to tend to their infant daughter back in Montreat, N.C. while her husband continued on for another couple of months. After Ruth left, Billy came down with the flu. He shares the story in his autobiography that speaks volumes to the woman that Ruth was. Read the excerpt from Just As I Am below.

Ruth with first-born daughter Gigi

“By airmail Ruth sent some vitamin and mineral pills her father had had specially prepared for me. ’Now, darling,’ she admonished me, ‘Please – for a change – do what the doctor says.’

Ruth was bothered also by something not completely unrelated to the illness I was battling when she left. She thought I was unwise to push myself so hard in the Lord’s service. ‘I think sometimes it is easier to drive ourselves to actual death than it is to take ourselves firmly in hand and make ourselves do the wise thing,’ she wrote from home. ‘Without sounding funny, it is better to rest awhile above the earth than to rest forever beneath it.’ Then her theology came to her rescue. ‘While we do not expect to rest forever beneath it, so far as your present usefulness would be concerned, you may as well be.’

I wrote to her of course, but before she received my answering letter, she wrote me another. That one really caught me off-guard. It was about our marriage. Her intuition told her that I was feeling guilty and that I was worried there might be an estrangement between us, caused by my obsession with the ministry and my repeated absences.

‘In your thinking we have grown apart due to the wide separation of our ways and interests,’ she wrote. ‘But I feel closer to you than ever before… Where you are, I go with you in mind and heart – praying for you continually. You, with your broader sphere of service, your worldwide circle of friends, your unlimited interests and responsibilities, would find it more difficult to be with me in mind and heart and prayers… Don’t judge my heart-following of all your goings and comings by your interest in and understanding of my two-by-four world. And since my body was able to follow my heart for two months, the world you travel will seem much more personal and real to me. Your problems, thrills, heartaches, and glorious victories – much more my very own… take good care of your precious self. There is so much yet to be done for God, and so much love yet unexplored and unexperienced for us.’ She was right – and more than that, I marveled at her sensitivity and insight. “

Ruth also helped Billy in other ways with his global ministry. She was the main proofreader on his books and helped him with research for his sermons. It was Ruth who often helped Billy find relevant current events for him to use in his sermons. She sometimes shared from the Crusade platform, always testifying of God’s great love and encouraging those in the stadiums to accept Christ as their Savior.

Ruth Graham speaks during a Crusade in Cleveland, Ohio in 1972

If you’re interested in learning more about Ruth Bell Graham and many other influential women in the ministry, make plans to visit the Billy Graham Library. Walk our galleries and see videos, photos, and memorabilia from these women. You can begin planning your visit at: https://billygrahamlibrary.org/what-to-expect/