This talk examines how Elizabeth Gaskell offers an alternative plot for the fallen woman in her 1853 novel Ruth. Gaskell reworks the dominant plot of the fallen woman genre by revoking what Amanda Anderson calls “the downward-path principle.” It dictates that once a woman has sex outside the sanctified confines of marriage, she will continue her moral decay and sink into prostitution, disease and death. In Ruth, however, Gaskell departs from this convention. This talk argues that Gaskell reconfigures the fallen woman as an autonomous being capable of moral action, instead of being locked in moral regress. Through examining the role of motherhood in Ruth’s moral agency, this talk elucidates the maternal underpinnings of Ruth’s moral existence. Motherhood fortifies Ruth against succumbing to individual desire; it strengthens her capacity to act according to her moral beliefs.