M. Jeanne Peterson was born on November 26, 1937 in Hibbing, Minnesota. She received her bachelor's and doctor of philosophy degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, the first in 1966, the second in 1972. She was a lecturer, assistant, associate, and full professor of History from 1971 to 1987. She served as chairperson of the department of history from 1987 to 1993. After that, she became the executive associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1993 to 1999. During 1999 to 2000 she served as acting chair of the gender studies department. Since 2001 she holds the titles of professor emerita of history and foundation professor emerita of gender studies. She has written multiple articles and books including The Medical Profession in Mid-Victorian London and Family, Love, and Work in the Lives of Victorian Gentlewomen.