Ruth Finney Allen, 81, who, during a 50-year career in journalism covered such stories as the death of President Harding, the Teapot Dome investigations and the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, died Tuesday at her home in Washington. She had a heart ailment.

Mrs. Allen started out in 1918 as a reporter for the Sacramento Star in California, and later became the paper's city editor, one of the first women in American journalism to achieve such a position.

In 1922, she joined the San Francisco News, a Scripps-Howard newspaper. She came here as Washington correspondent for the Scripps-Howard chain in 1923.

As a Washington correspondent, Mrs. Allen covered every presidential nominating convention from the 1920s to the 1960s.

In the 1930s, while covering the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of utility holding company practices, she became known as "Poison Ivy Finney." She also was cited in a 1936 book, "Ladies of the Press," as "the only woman to write lead political stories for a national string of newspapers."

When she retired in 1968, because of loss of sight, she was Washington correspondent for the Albuquerque Tribune and wrote a weekly column, Washington Calling, for the Scripps-Howard organization.

Mrs. Allen was born in Chicago and grew up in Downieville and Sacramento, Calif. She graduated from the old San Jose State Normal School (now San Jose State College) in 1918.

In 1929, she married Col. Robert S. Allen, a Washington correspondent and cofounder with Drew Pearson of the Washington Merry-Go-Round newspaper column.

Mrs. Allen continued to write after her retirement and had completed two collections of short stories and an account of her newspaper career, all unpublished.

She is survived by her husband, of the home in Washington.