Mina Curtiss, née Kirstein, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a wealthy Jewish American family and spent her childhood in Rochester, New York. One of her brothers was Lincoln Kirstein, who became a writer, philanthropist and co-founder of New York City Ballet. She was educated at home by a governess and then attended Smith College, from which she graduated in 1918, and Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree in 1920. She returned to Smith to teach English on and off again from 1922 to 1934 and from 1940 to 1942, rising to the rank of associate professor. In 1933, she published a book about her marriage of one year and the early death of her husband, Henry Tomlinson Curtiss, called The Midst of Life. From 1935 to 1938, she worked on scripts with Orson Welles and John Houseman at the Mercury Theater of the Air in New York City. During World War II, she served on Houseman's staff at the Office of War Information. In 1944, she edited a collection of letters from enlisted men and noncommissioned officers called Letters Home, based on a program she had created for the radio station of the Des Moines Register. She was fluent in French, and translated works by Edgar Degas, Philip Halévy, and Marcel Proust into English. In 1978, she published Other People’s Letters: A Memoir, which chronicled her intense interest in Proust. She published a biography of Georges Bizet, and contributed book reviews, articles, and editorials to newspapers and journals for many years. She also was the editor of a number of other books, including Letters of Marcel Proust (1949); Olive, Cypress and Palm: An Anthology of Love and Death; and My Friend Degas. In 1960, she received the Legion of Honor from the French government. At the age of 81, she was named a visiting professor of English Language and Literature at Smith, teaching a course on writing biography.