Ruth Hendrickson Wood was born in Mount Morris, Illinois. Wood graduated from Lake Forest College in 1921. It is at the college that she met her husband, J. Howard Wood, who worked for the Chicago Tribune and later served as the Tribune Company’s chief executive and chairman of the board. Ruth and Howard were married in 1928 and had four children: Janet, Ann, John Jr. and Robert. Wood was active in the Chicago community, serving on the women’s board at both the Field Museum and the University of Chicago.