Born Ethel Hutchinson in Willoughton, Lincolnshire, Mrs Rudkin spent little of her long life away from her native Lincolnshire. She was a dedicated collector of Lincolnshire material, and was active in a number of fields including local history, archaeology, folk-life, and dialect, as well as folklore, working for many years with little recognition or encouragement but eventually becoming an acknowledged expert in all these subjects. Her home, which was packed with artefacts, farm implements, and memorabilia, as well as books and manuscripts, became a place of pilgrimage for researchers. Her main folklore collecting, in the 1920s and 1930s, was made directly from the people of the villages up and down the county and covered the broadest range of topics. A string of articles published in the Folklore Society's journal, detailed below, included her careful descriptions of calendar customs, beliefs in witches and devils, stone-lore, and an important contribution on Black Dogs. Her one book, Lincolnshire Folklore was published at her own expense in 1936, reprinted in 1973 by EP Publishing of East Ardsley, and is still in demand.
Major articles: ‘An Account of the Haxey Hood Game’, Folk-Lore 43 (1932), 294–301;‘Lincolnshire Folklore’, Folk-Lore 44 (1933), 189–214, 279–95;45 (1934), 144–57, 248–67;66 (1955), 385–400;‘The Black Dog’, Folk-Lore 49 (1938), 111–31;‘Lincolnshire Plough Plays’, Folk-Lore 50 (1939), 88–97;‘The Plough Jack's Play’, Folk-Lore 50 (1939), 291–4.Foreword by J. D. A. Widdowson, to the 1973 reprint of her Lincolnshire Folklore;Obituary by Theo Brown, Folklore 97:2 (1986), 222–3.