A prolific American author, she is known for Stardust (1921), A President is Born (1927), Back Street (1931), and Imitation of Life (1933). The latter work dealt with race relations and was adapted into a film in 1934.
She attended Washington University in St. Louis. She subsequently became a prominent member of several political organizations, including the Lucy Stone League, the World Health Organization, the Urban League, and the Works Progress Administration's National Advisory Committee.
She had a torrid, lengthy affair with Arctic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
She was born in Hamilton, Ohio to an upper-class Jewish family. She married pianist Jacques Danielson in 1915.
Like songwriter Bob Russell, she also studied at Washington University in St. Louis.