Poet Lizette Woodworth Reese was born in Huntingdon (now Waverly), Maryland, to a Confederate soldier and his German wife. She attended Baltimore private schools and, upon graduating from high school, embarked on a nearly 50-year career as an English teacher in the Baltimore schools.

Her first poetry collection, A Branch of May (1887), brought wide recognition. She published an additional eight volumes of poetry, two long narrative poems, two memoirs, and one autobiographical novel. Reese’s mix of colloquial speech and formal structures influenced younger poets, including Edna St. Vincent Millay and Louise Bogan.

In 1931 she was named poet laureate of Maryland, and was granted an honorary doctorate from Goucher College. Reese was a member of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, acting as honorary president from 1922 until her death; she also co-founded the Women’s Literary Club of Baltimore, acting as its poetry chair from 1890 until her death.

Reese is buried at St. John's in the Village Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Her papers are collected at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.