An American novelist, biographer, and teacher, she wrote extensively about pioneer life and the Plains Indians. Her novels and non-fiction works include Cheyenne Autumn; The Beaver Men; Slogum House; and Old Jules.
She took the rural teachers' exam and taught in country schools. Later, she worked for the Nebraska State Historical Society.
She published a 1942 biography of Crazy Horse, the famous Lakota tribal leader.
She and her five siblings were born in Nebraska to Swiss immigrant parents. She was briefly married to Wray Macumber.
She and Juanita Brooks both wrote about pioneer life.