Anna O. Shepard received her bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1926, did postgraduate work in optical crystallography at Claremont College in 1930, and studied chemical spectroscopy at New York University. In 1940, she studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Colorado in 1942. She became a pioneer in the study of Mesoamerican and Southwestern ceramic petrography in the United States, determining the provenance of painted vessels from various sites. She demonstrated that ancient Puebloan women produced pottery on a large scale for trade throughout the region. Most of her rigorous analysis work was done from a laboratory in her home. She was widely admired and published -- her book Ceramics for the Archaeologist (1956) still serves as the standard reference work on the subject.