Amy R. Kelly was born in Port Clinton, Ohio, and graduated from Oberlin College in 1900 before earning a master's degree from Wellesley College. She taught briefly at Lake Erie College for Women and served as headmistress of Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland. Between and after these appointments, she was a member of the English literature faculty at Wellesley, from which she retired as associate professor in 1943. She spent 30 years researching medieval documents and traveling from London to Constantinople to Palestine in preparation for her monumental biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine. After her retirement, she spent seven years writing and re-writing the book, which was published as Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Harvard University Press in 1950. It was an immediate bestseller and went to eight printings in the next 12 years. The book is still in print and is renowned among historians and women's studies scholars.