Miss Ruth Harwood Bowker was born as Janet Harwood Bowker 1 in Ware, Hertfordshire, England in January 1881 and was later baptised on 4 September that same year in Thurnscoe, Yorkshire.
She was the daughter of Dr Edward Harwood Bowker (b. 1851) and Annie Sowersby (b. 1856). Her father was a medical practitioner originally from Chesterfield, Derbyshire who had schooled at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. He was married to his wife Annie, a native of Pickering, Yorkshire, in Thurnscoe, York in November 1876 and they had three children. Ruth's siblings were: Geoffrey Harwood (1880-1965) and Cuthbert Harwood (1882-1915).
Ruth first appears on the 1881 census as an infant, not yet four months old, living with her family on High Street in Ware where her father practised as a physician. When the 1891 census was conducted a ten-year-old Ruth was listed at the home of her uncle and aunt Thomas and Mary Pallister at 17 Thorne Road, Doncaster, Yorkshire; her parents and siblings were listed elsewhere at 18 Wallace Street in Gildersome near Leeds, Yorkshire.
Ruth later became a bookkeeper and was shown functioning in this capacity when she appeared on the 1901 census, living and working at the Royal York Hotel in Margate, Kent. She appears on the 1911 census living as a lady's maid at 15 Pembroke Road, Bootle, Lancashire. Her mother and brother Geoffrey were listed as living at Station Pond in Little Sutton, Cheshire and her father at 34 Fairfield Road in Chesterfield, Derbyshire with his two unmarried sisters, Janet and Agnes.
Ruth's father died at his Chesterfield home on 5 April 1912 following a protracted illness. The next day, on 6 April, she signed-on for Titanic's maiden voyage and gave her home address as The Cottage, Little Sutton, Cheshire 2 and her previous ship as the Olympic. As a member of the à la carte restaurant she was employed and therefore paid by Mr Gatti and was one of only two females who worked in the restaurant, the other being Mabel Martin. Her father was buried in Chesterfield on 9 April and the next day Ruth joined Titanic.
Miss Bowker and Miss Martin survived the sinking, escaping in lifeboat 6, being among the few survivors from the restaurant staff.
Chesterfield Lady Among the Survivors
Among the survivors of the awful disaster which occurred to the Titanic is Miss Ruth Bowker, a daughter of the late Dr Bowker of Chesterfield.
Miss Bowker, who was a cashier on the liner, was among the crowd of women who were picked up by the Carpathia. The first intimation received by her family was a terse marconigram message which was conveyed to her brother in Cheshire.
The welcome words "Safe--Ruth" allayed the anxiety of her relatives.
A later cablegram stated that Miss Bowker was coming to England on the Lapland, and she is expected at her home in Cheshire some time during this week. Miss Bowker was formerly a cashier on the Olympic.
(Derbyshire Times, 27 April 1912)
It is not certain if Ruth ever worked at sea again. Only a few years after the disaster her brother Cuthbert, who had been living in Canada, died on 8 March 1915. Her mother later died in London in 1940.
Ruth was never married and worked as a bookkeeper at the Wilton Hotel in Westminster, London for many years, appearing at that address on electoral registers up until 1947. She died in 1956 aged 75.
Her last surviving sibling, Geoffrey, died in Colchester, Essex in 1965.