Edith Ennen was born in Merzig, Germany, where her father Emil Ennen was medical director of the local provincial psychiatric hospital. She attended the lyceum in Merzig and the Realgymnasium in Dillingen. She studied history, German, and Latin at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg, and earned her PhD. from the University of Bonn in 1933. She trained as an archivist at the Institute for Archival Science in Berlin-Dahlem, one of the few women admitted. After her graduation, she did not obtain a place in the Prussian archive service, a male preserve, and did not want to join the Nazi Party. She went to work for the Institute of Historical Geography of the Rhineland at the University of Bonn. She helped keep its teaching and publishing operations going during World War II. In 1947, she was appointed the first official archivist of the city of Bonn, a position she held until 1964. That year, she was appointed to the chair of Economic and Social History at the University of Saarland in Saarbrucken. In 1968, she became the first woman to hold a chair in medieval and modern history at the University of Bonn, and took over the management of the Institute of Historical Geography of the Rhineland. Her pioneering book Frühgeschichte der europäischen Stadt (translated in English as The Medieval Town) was published in 1953 and established her reputation as an expert in medieval urban history. Among her many other important works was The Medieval Woman, published from 1984 to 1999 in six editions and several languages.