Julia Jessie Taft was the daughter of a businessman. She was raised in Des Moines, and attended Drake University and then the University of Chicago. She spent much of her professional life teaching and working at the University of Pennsylvania. She is best remembered as the American translator and biographer of Otto Rank, an outcast disciple of Sigmund Freud. Her work with sociologists such as Talcott Parsons and Robert Park lead to special emphasis on the social constructs of masculine and feminine gender identity, which contrasted strongly with contemporary social norms.