Ruth Pitter was born in Ilford, Essex, England November 7, 1897. Pitter’s parents George and Louisa Pitter were both primary school teachers and were fundamental in Ruth’s development as a poet. From a young age she was employed working at the War Office, a department of the British Government which was responsible for the British Army from the mid 1800s to mid 1900s. Pitter worked for the Office from 1915 to 1917.
It was a number of years before this, in 1911, that her first poems were published in New Age. After this, she went on to work as a painter of gift-ware and furniture at Walberswick Peasant Pottery Company in Suffolk. She reminded in this job until 1930.
Pitter’s first collection, First Poems, was published in 1920. She was able to release this work with help from Hilaire Belloc, a French poet, biographer and historian. Her second collection, First and Second Poems, was released seven years later. It was around this same period of time that Pitter held a brief correspondence and professional friendship with George Orwell, whose writings she was critical of.
Her third and fourth collections came out in 1931 and 1934. These were followed by A Trophy of Arms and The Spirit Watches. In 1937 she won the Hawthornden Prize for the collection, A Trophy of Arms.
In the later years of her life, Putter and a friend founded a small company which specialized in painted furniture. Unfortunately, the firm closed when World War II began, and Pitter went to work in a factory. The two reunited after the war and opened another company, this time focusing on painting trays. Although Pitter was deeply entrenched in her businesses, she did manage to find time to write. Over her life she published over 18 volumes of poetry.
Throughout her life and after her death, Pitter was compared to writers such as Thomas Hardy and W.B. Yeats. Her poetry was seen as being fairly traditional. She did not engage in the experimentation which was popular amongst her contemporaries.
She was the first woman to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1955. She was later appointed a CBE in 1979 for her contributions to English literature. One of the final awards bestowed upon her was when she was named as a “Companion of Literature.” Ruth Pitter died in February of 1992.