Ruth Duckworth was born in 1919 in Hamburg, Germany. Unable to attend university in Germany due to restrictions imposed by the Nazi government, Duckworth left for the United Kingdom. There she studied at the Liverpool College of Art, the Hammersmith School of Art, and in the studio of Lucie Rie. Encouraged by Rie to gain more experience in ceramics, Duckworth attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. In 1966 she moved to the United States to teach at the University of Chicago, where she introduced a postwar European sensibility to her students and encouraged the development of American sculptural ceramics.