Ruth Sawyer was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of five children in a wealthy family. They moved to New York City while she was still a baby. She had an Irish nanny who inspired her love of storytelling. Ruth attended private school and studied at the Garland Kindergarten Training School. In 1900, she traveled to Cuba, where she taught storytelling to kindergarten teachers. After returning to the USA, she won a scholarship to study storytelling and folk lore at Columbia University, earning a BS in education in 1904. She then went to work for the New York City school system, and in 1910 started the first storytelling program for children for the New York Public Library. She wrote articles for The New York Sun, which twice sent her on trips to Ireland, where she collected folk tales and continued to study the art of storytelling. Eventually she became renowned for her folk tale collections and storytelling expertise. In 1911, she married Albert Durand, an ophthalmologist with whom she had two children and lived in Ithaca, New York. She continued to write under her birth name. Her first book was a novel for adults, The Primrose Ring, published in 1915, and adapted into a silent film. The following year, she published her first book for children, This Way to Christmas. She published one book every year or two for the next 20 years. Her best-known book, a fictionalized autobiography entitled Roller Skates, appeared in 1936 and won the Newbery Medal. A second volume continuing the story, The Year of Jubilo, was published in 1940. In 1944, she published The Way of the Storyteller, which was used as a textbook for teachers, librarians and storytellers for many years. The Christmas Anna Angel (1944), illustrated by Kate Seredy, was a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal. Maggie Rose, Her Birthday Christmas (1952) was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. For Journey Cake, Ho! (1953), she collaborated with famed children's writer-illustrator Robert McCloskey, her son-in-law (author of Make Way for Ducklings), and the book was a runner-up for the 1954 Caldecott. In 1965, she received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award from the professional children's librarians, for her "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."