Ruth was born around 1860 in Pennsylvania. Not much else is known about Ruth's early life, like who her parents were, but they were most likely first-class, because Ruth inherited much of their wealth. It is also unknown who Ruth's husband was, but it is known that she gave birth to his daughter, Rose DeWitt Bukater. When her husband died when Rose was still a child, Ruth claimed that he left them with nothing but "a legacy of bad debts hidden by a good name." Rose and Ruth did not develop a very good relationship, however, because when Rose was about 16, Ruth forced her into an arranged marriage with Caledon Hockley for his wealth and social status, who was commonly referred to as Cal.
In 1912, Cal, Rose, and Ruth boarded the RMS Titanic on its ill-fated journey. Once boarded and settled in to their cabins, Rose one late night meets and eventually falls in love with a penniless third-class artist named Jack Dawson, whom she first met when she was trying to commit suicide by jumping off Titanic's stern. Ruth had forbiden her daughter to see Jack out of fear that Rose may abandon Cal and herself and run away with Jack, leaving Ruth penniless. When Rose finally had enough of her mother's snobbish behavior and selfishness, she abandoned both her and Cal to be with Jack whom by now she had fallen deeply in love with.
The night Titanic sinks, Ruth escapes in a lifeboat with one of the few kind-hearted passengers, Molly Brown. Ruth survived the sinking, but never saw her daughter again due to her daughter's immense hatred of her, and when Rose boarded the Carpathia and was asked for her name, she changed her name to "Rose Dawson." Ruth died convinced she lost her daughter in the sinking of the Titanic.
- Unknown Husband
- Rose DeWitt Bukater - Daughter
- Unnamed grandchildren
- Lizzy Calvert - Great-Granddaughter
Rose: It's so unfair.
Ruth: Of course it's unfair. We're women. Our choices are never easy.
Ruth: So this is the ship they say is unsinkable.
Cal: It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship.
Molly Brown: [to the group who are dining at the same table] Hey, uh, who thought of the name Titanic? Was it you, Bruce?
Ismay: Yes, actually. I wanted to convey sheer size, and size means stability, luxury, and above all, strength.
Rose: Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.
Ruth: [whispering] What's gotten into you?
Rose: Excuse me. [She rises and leaves]
Ruth: Tell us of the accommodations in steerage, Mr. Dawson. I hear they are quite good on this ship.
Jack: The best I've seen, ma'am. Hardly any rats.
Ruth: Will the lifeboats be seated according to class? I hope they're not too crowded.
Rose: Oh mother, shut up! Don't you understand? The water is freezing and there aren't enough boats. Not enough by half. Half the people on this ship are going to die.
Cal: Not the better half.
Ruth: You're not to see that boy again. Do you understand me? Rose, I forbid it.
Rose: Oh stop it, mother. You'll give yourself a nose bleed.
[Jack is teaching Rose how to spit]
Rose: Mother! May I introduce Jack Dawson?
Ruth: Charmed, I'm sure.
Old Rose[voice in off]: The others were gracious and curious about the man who had saved my life. But my mother looked at him like an insect. A dangerous insect, which must be squashed quickly.
Ruth: The purpose of university is to find a suitable husband. Rose has already done that.