Virginia Randolph Grace was born in New York City to the close-knit family and spent her childhood summers in New Jersey, learning to swim and sail.
As a very small child, she contracted polio but recovered well, and was not impeded during her future climbs of Mount Olympus and other Greek mountains. She attended the Brearley School, where she studied Latin and Greek before entering Bryn
Mawr College. She graduated cum laude from Bryn Mawr College in 1922, majoring in Greek and English. In 1927, she went to study at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece, and then returned to Bryn Mawr to earn her MA and PhD degrees in Classical Archaeology. In 1931, she travelled to Asia Minor and excavated at Pergamon, the Greek city in present-day Turkey, and Halai, Greece (working with Hetty Goldman), and the tombs at Lapithos in Cyprus. In 1932, she joined the staff of the recently-opened American Excavations at the Athenian Agora and began studying the stamped amphora handles unearthed there. She published the results of her research in her first article, "Stamped Amphora Handles Found in the American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, 1931-32," which became her doctoral dissertation. She later became a world authority on the Roman amphora trade. During World War II, she was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and also consulted with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) bureaus in Istanbul, Cairo, and Izmir. In 1949, she returned to live in Greece. Among her books was Amphoras and the Ancient
Wine Trade (1962). In 1989, she was awarded the Gold Medal for Archaeological Achievement by the Archaeological Institute of America.