Born in Worcester, MA, she was raised by her grandparents in Nova Scotia and Boston. She attended Walnut Hill High School outside of Boston, and Vassar College. She met Marianne Moore in New York--Marianne Moore encouraged her poetry-- and published her first poems in a Vassar undergrad magazine (which she helped found). She wrote The Man-Moth in New York, and then began to wander the world. Settled in Key West, FL in 1938, and finally got her first book published--North and South in 1946.
She moved to Brazil in 1951, and became intimately involved with Lota de Macedo Soares (that would be a female name, btw), and published another "volume of poetry" in 1955--A Cold Spring. She lived in Rio de Janeiro, Petropolis, and Ouro Preto, and published Questions of Travel in 1965.
Elizabeth Bishop moved back to the US after Lota de Macedo Soares committed suicide, and became Harvard's Poet-in-Residence in 1969. Her last book of poetry was published in 1976, Geography III.
She tried to foster a sense of spontaneity and "offhandedness" in her poems, but often worked for more than a year on a single one. She said, "I'm not interested in big-scale work as such. Something needn't be large to be good."
She didn't have the most comfortable life, and her poems plainly reflect "her estrangements as a woman, a lesbian, an orphan, a geographically rootless traveler, a frequently hospitalized asthmatic, and a sufferer of depression and alcoholism."
Thanks to the Modern American Poetry site and George S. Lensing for the info and occasional quote.