Florence Merriam was born in New York, and showed an early interest in birds. Her older brother Clinton Hart Merriam, who encouraged her study of them, grew up to become a well-known zoologist, ornithologist, and naturalist. Florence contributed articles to the Audubon Magazine as a student at Smith College. In 1899, she married Vernon Bailey, a pioneering naturalist who worked with her brother in the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey. The couple traveled widely and wrote books on botany that reached a wide audience. They encouraged many young people to study natural history. Florence Merriam Bailey also wrote books on her own and is considered a pioneer of the modern birdwatching field guide. Her works included Birds Through an Opera Glass (1889), Birds of Village and Field (1898), and Birds of New Mexico (1928), for which she became the first woman to win the Brewster Medal of the American Ornithologists' Union. She was a founding member of the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia and frequently led its classes in ornithology. Her last major written work was Among the Birds in the Grand Canyon National Park, published by the National Park Service in 1939.