Emeline Hill Richardson was born in Buffalo, New York. She attended Radcliffe College, receiving a B.A. in 1932 and an M.A. in 1935. In 1935-1936, she studied at the University of London with art historian and archaeologist Bernard Ashmole, and then returned to Radcliffe to complete her Ph.D. in 1939. From 1941–1949, she taught at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. In 1950, with a stipend from the American Academy in Rome, she was involved in excavations at Cosa, an Etruscan town on the coast of Tuscany. She married Lawrence Richardson in 1952. From 1968 until 1979, she was a professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She became well-known as a classical archaeologist and Etruscan scholar. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1974, and received the Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement from the Archaeological Institute of America in 1993. Her major book, Etruscan Votive Bronze Objects, was published in 1983.