Emma Thomas Pitter, known as Ruth, was born in Ilford, a suburb of London, the daughter of two teachers. She began writing poetry at a young age, publishing her first poem at age nine. Her first book of poetry appeared in 1920; but it was not until the publication of A Mad Lady's Garland (1934), with a preface by her friend and mentor Hilaire Belloc, that her work became widely known. Ruth enrolled at London University but had to drop out during World War I, and took a job in the Foreign Office. She never married and, after working as a painter at a furniture company for several years, set up in business in 1928 with her lifelong friend Kathleen O'Hara in a small firm specializing in decorative, painted furniture and later painted trays. Despite the demands of the business, Ruth Pitter lived a quiet lifestyle in Oxfordshire and managed to spend a few hours each day writing poetry and gardening. She went on to publish 18 volumes of new and collected verse over a 70-year career as a poet. From 1946 to 1972, she was often a guest on BBC radio programs, and from 1956 to 1960, she appeared regularly on the BBC's The Brains Trust, one of the first television talk shows. In 1955, she became the first woman to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.