Inspired by her mother’s interest in civil rights, Ruth Bateson became the Chairman of the Public Education Sub-Committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1953.
In the early 1960s, she challenged the Boston School Committee. In addition to the Boston Public Schools being largely segregated, she found a correlation between schools with high black enrollments and inadequate school facilities.
After serving as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination from 1963 to 1966, Ruth helped launched the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) voluntary desegregation program. As a member of the leadership team, she helped grow METCO from transporting 225 black urban children to several suburbs to 1,125 children to 28 communities.