Lillian Estelle Fisher was born in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, to a farming family. She attended Susquehanna University and graduated with highest honors in 1912. She taught for a few years at a Methodist Normal School for Girls in Puebla, Mexico. She then earned an M.A. from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1925, she became an instructor in history at Whittier College in 1925 and later taught at the Oklahoma College for Women for 15 years. Her first book, Viceregal Administration in the Spanish American Colonies, was published in 1926. She went on to write a dozen books on Latin American history and culture, including some that were the first works written in English on the subject.