Frances Whitehead was born in 1953 in Richmond, Virginia. She earned her B.F.A from East Carolina University in 1975 and her M.F.A. from Northern Illinois University in 1978. Since 1984, Whitehead has been a professor of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has received awards from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in 1991 and the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006. She has exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; and the National Gallery of American Art, Washington.