Wilma Leslie Garnett was born in Moline, Illinois, on September 2, 1893. She was the daughter of Robert Lewis and Martha (Kane) Garnett. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Iowa State Teachers College in 1918; her Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1925; and her Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. She taught in Iowa public schools and the University of Iowa elementary school. Later (1926- 1930) she was supervisor at the Kinkaid School in Houston, Texas. From 1930 through 1937 Garnett was director of elementary education at Eastern State Teachers College in Madison, South Dakota. She was a professor of English at Kent State University from 1937 through 1962 where she also served as advisor to the international program. She later taught at the Ohio State University- Newark, Illinois College, and Pikeville College. She retired to the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City area. She died in Cedar Rapids on February 1, 1992.
Garnett spent thirteen months in Cambodia in 1955-1956 working for the International Cooperation Administration as an education consultant. Much of this collection is the result of her work in Cambodia and her continuing interest in that country.