Ruth is a young orphan girl working in a respectable sweatshop for the overworked Mrs Mason. She is selected to go to a ball to repair torn dresses. At the ball she meets the aristocratic Henry Bellingham, a rake figure who is instantly attracted to her. They meet again by chance and form a secret friendship; on an outing together they are spotted by Mrs Mason who, fearing for her shop's reputation, dismisses Ruth
Although RUTH is too sentimental to be as good as Gaskell's other major novels, it tells a compelling story and provides a sympathetic, fairly broad view of simple, small-town characters of different economic levels, social classes, and religious beliefs. Of particular interest is the respect and love between Dissenters and Church of England members.