Léonie Adams was born in Brooklyn, New York in December of 1899. Her parents, Henrietta and Charles Frederick Adams were very strict. Adams was only allowed to leave her home if she was accompanied, even after she became a legal adult. She was one of six children and her sister Louise Holland, became an important teacher and archaeologist.
Adams attended Barnard College in the late 1910s. While there she began to write, showing her skill as a poet. It was also around this time that her first poems were published. In 1922 she graduated from Barnard and became the editor of The Measure in 1924. The following year her first volume of poetry, Those Not Elect, was published.
In the later years of the 1920s, Adams entered into an affair with writer Edmund Wilson and traveled to France. It was here that she met Hilda Doolittle, known by her pen name, H.D., and conversed with Gertrude Stein. It was also during this time period that in an effort to maintain her relationship with Wilson, Adams faked a pregnancy and drove Wilson to a nervous collapse.
Her second volume of poetry, High Falcon and Other Poems, was published in 1929. It followed her first book for children, A Casque for Amadis, which was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was working as an editor for The Met and Wilson Publishing at this time.
In the 1930s Adams returns to New York and lived in the Ramapo Mountains near Hillburn. She spent her time traveling to New York City and lecturing on Victorian poetry at New York University. Adams would soon meet and marry fellow teacher, William Troy, who also worked at New York University. This was the same year she published The Measure. The couple would go on to become faculty members at Bennington College. Adams spent time teaching at the University of Washington, Columbia University, and many others.
In 1950, Adams received an honorary doctorate from the New Jersey College of Women, now known as Douglass College. Later in the decade, Adam’s collection Poems: A Selection, won the Collingen Prize. This would be her final volume of poetry. Throughout her life, she received a number of awards, and in 1974 she received a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. Adams died in 1988, in New Milford, Connecticut. She was 88 years old.