Ruth was born in 1955 in Rangoon, Burma to a Christian family .Her father is of Tamilian origin while her mother is North Indian and she comes from a family of educators.She moved to New Delhi, India when she was two and grew up there.She attended Springdales school. When she was in 8th grade, the doctor advised her mother to discontinue her studies due to Ruth's acute myopia and as she had already received sufficient education for a girl, according to him. Her mother was a teacher and home schooled her, until Ruth graduated high school and went on to attend Miranda House college in Delhi University.She did her B.A and M.A and later became lecturer in English, Miranda House and Reader, Department of English, Delhi University between 1976-1997. She registered for a PhD, but left it midway to work on Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society. She later finished her PhD on the writings of Virginia Woolf. Her research for the book, later became the basis for the book Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996)
While living in Delhi in 1978, Vanita co-founded Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society, a journal that combined academic research and grassroots activism. She served as the journal's co-editor from 1979 to 1990. She also was a reader at Miranda House, and in the English Department of the University of Delhi. Author of several books and many literary translations, she has also published many academic articles on Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Indian literature in journals such as Shakespeare Survey, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Comparative Drama, Postcolonial Studies, GLQ and Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. She is now a professor at the University of Montana as part of the Liberal Studies Program.
Co-edited with Madhu Kishwar, "In Search of Answers: Indian Women’s Voices from Manushi" (London: Zed Books, 1984, revised edition Horizon Books, Delhi, 1991).
Vanita, Ruth, A Play of Light: Selected Poems (Penguin India, 1994)
Vanita, Ruth, Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-Sex Love and the English Literary Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996)
Vanita, Ruth and Saleem Kidwai (eds.) (2000) Same-Sex love in India: Readings from Literature and History. London: Palgrave Macmillan. New Delhi: Macmillan. Updated edition forthcoming from Penguin India, 2008. ISBN 0-312-22169-X
Vanita, Ruth. Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society (New York: Routledge, 2002)