Elizabeth Garver Jordan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school in 1884. She attended business school and then began her career in journalism as the women's page editor at the newspaper Peck's Sun. She was a secretary to the superintendent of the Milwaukee school system while contributing to other papers such as the St. Paul Globe and the Chicago Tribune. In 1890, she moved to New York City and got a job writing human interest features at The New York World. She wrote a series of articles about conditions in New York City slums that was later published as her first book, The Submerged Tenth (1893). Next she published a collection of short stories, many inspired by her work, called Tales of the City Room. From 1901 to 1913, she was editor of Harper's Bazaar magazine. During this period, she published novels and further short story collections. Her play The Lady of Oklahoma premiered on Broadway in 1913. She organized a collaborative novel called The Whole Family with chapters written by Henry James, William Dean Howells, and other prominent authors. It was serialized in Harper's in 1907-1908. She went to work for the firm of Harper Brothers, where she edited and helped publish novels by a number of female authors, including Zona Gale, Eleanor H. Porter, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher. She worked with Anna Howard Shaw on her autobiography, The Story of a Pioneer (1915). In 1918, she was briefly editorial director for Goldwyn Pictures. Two of her novels were adapted for film: Daddy and I (1934) as Make Way for a Lady (1936) and The Girl in the Mirror (1919) as The Girl in Number 29 (1920). In 1938, she published a memoir, Three Rousing Cheers.