Ruth Fulton was born on June 5, 1887, in New York City. Her early childhood years were spent in the country. She did her undergraduate study at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1914, she married Stanley Bendict, who died in 1936.
Even after entering anthropology in 1920, she continued to write poetry under the pseudonym Anne Singleton until the 1930's. She was a part-time student at the New School from 1919-1921, taking courses from Elsie Clews Parsons and Alexander A. Goldenweiser, who received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1910.
In 1921, Dr. Franz Boas waived the admission requirements and admitted Dr. Ruth Benedict as a Ph.D. candidate in the Columbia University anthropology program. Dr. Boas was extremely important to Dr. Benedict, who wrote to him in 1940, "I can't tell you what a place you fill in my life." She finished her dissertation in March of 1923, joined the anthropological faculty of the university, and remained associated with it until her death in 1948.
She did field reserach with American southwestern tribes, with the Serrono of California and the Blackfoot of Canada. The 1924 Zuni field trip, focusing on folklore and religion, resulted in a book, Zuni Mythology.
Her book, Patterns of Culture (1934), had considerable influence on many anthropologists. The book was Benedict's attempt to bring order into the vast "diversity of customs".
Race: Science and Politics (1940), was her contribution to the problem of human inequality. Her last book, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946), was the result of her application of anthropological methods to the study of Japanese culture and character. The work was done for the American Office of War Information (1943-1945) and did not involve field work in Japan but was a study of "culture at a distance".
Above all, she guided and encouraged young anthropologists and taught many students for over twenty years at Columbia University. She was awarded many academic honors and was persident of the American Anthropological Association. Dr. Ruth Fulton Benedict died on September 17, 1948 at the age of 61 in New York City.