Hope Hale Davis was born Frances Hope Hale near Iowa City, Iowa. Her father died before she was born and she was raised by her mother, a teacher. They later moved to Washington, D.C., where Hope studied at the Corcoran School of Art and George Washington University. In 1926, after a brief first marriage, she moved to New York City, where she worked for an advertising agency and moved in Greenwich Village bohemian circles. She was an early feminist and an unconventional writer. She left the ad agency to become a freelance writer, publishing stories in national magazines such as the The New Yorker and Collier's. In 1932, she married Claud Cockburn, the British journalist, author and Communist, who was then a correspondent in New York for the Times of London. The couple did not live together and Cockburn left shortly afterwards for England, while Hope was pregnant with their daughter. In 1933, she returned to Washington, D.C., where she worked on the Consumers' Counsel of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. She married her third husband, Karl Hermann Brunck, a German economist working for the National Recovery Administration, and both joined the Communist Party of the USA.
She also joined the Communist spy ring called the "Ware Group," which also included Alger Hiss.
After Brunck's death, she went back to New York City, where she married Robert Gorham Davis, a literary critic and English professor at Columbia University, with whom she had two children. She edited his work while contributing her own articles to magazines such as Redbook, Town & Country, and New Leader. In 1939, the couple left the Communist Party over the Hitler-Stalin Pact, though Hope's beliefs remained decidedly left-wing. In 1985, she began teaching writing at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a position she held until her death. In 1994, she published her memoirs, Great Day Coming: A Memoir of the 1930s, which "created a sensation for its forthright, insider discussion of communist agitation in New Deal Washington, as well as sex, love, psychotherapy, and a cast of overwrought, semi famous characters," wrote The New York Sun. Other works included a collection of her articles entitled The Dark Way to the Plaza (1968).