Bernice Leary was born August 19, 1890 in Ionia, Iowa. Her parents, James Leary and Josephine Bell Leary, had two other daughters, Iva (1885-1977) and Lela (1887-?). Bernice Leary graduated from Riceville High School and then taught elementary school for a short time in Riceville. She attended Iowa State Teachers' College (now University of Northern Iowa) for one year. Leary received her B.A., M.A. and, in 1933, her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago.
The book that she coauthored with Dr. William S. Cray, What Makes a Book?, received an award from the American Education Research Association in 1949.
Leary held teaching and administrative positions at a number of high schools and colleges. She also worked as a curriculum specialist for the United States Office of Education in Washington, D.C., during the 1940s and 1950s.
From 1942 to 1955, Leary served as Director of Curriculum for the public schools of Madison, Wisconsin. During the summers she taught at various universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Temple University, and the University of Pittsburgh, where she trained elementary school teachers.
After World War II, Leary continued to work for the federal government, travelling to Germany, Thailand, the Philippines, and India from the late 1940s to late 1950s. During these travels, she worked with local educators in the capacity of curriculum specialist. She retired from the Madison Public School System in 1955.
In 1961, Leary moved to Webster City, Iowa with her sister Iva (also a retired teacher). In 1968, they moved to Mayflower Retirement Home in Grinnell. Bernice Leary died March 20, 1973.
From the Guide to the Bernice Leary Papers at the University of Iowa Libraries