Born in Minneapolis and attended the School of Art. Olds won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York City, where she stayed three years and was much under the influence of her teacher, George Luks, and other Social Realists. In 1925 Olds went to Europe and in 1926 became the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, which she used to study in Europe and stayed four years. In 1929 she returned to the US and found her primary subject matter in Depression Era Omaha, Nebraska. Olds focused on mass producing her art, which expressed deep sympathy for working people, and she also did political illustrations for a magazine called "The New Masses," and later for "The New Republic" and "Fortune" magazines. Olds also wrote and illustrated children's books.