Ferris Olin was born in 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey. Growing up in Ewing, she attended schools at Parkway School, Antheil Junior High School and Ewing High School. Following high school graduation in 1966, Dr. Olin went to Douglass College at Rutgers.
At Douglass, Dr. Olin majored in Art History and participated in activities such as Chapel Usher and Honor Board. After graduating from Douglass in the Class of 1970, Dr. Olin earned a Master's in Library Science in 1972 and a Master's in Art History in 1975. Later, she obtained a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies in 1988 and earned her Ph.D. in Art History in 1998.
In 1975, Dr. Olin worked at the Training Institute for the Sex Desegregation of the Public Schools at the Consortium for Educational Equity, based at Douglass. In 1976, Dr. Olin became a faculty member at the Art Library at Rutgers-New Brunswick. From 1985 to 1994, she held the position of Executive Officer of both the Blanche, Edith and Irving Laurie New Jersey Chair in Women's Studies and the Institute for Research on Women (IRW). In the interviews, Dr. Olin discusses administrative issues, programming and accomplishments of the Laurie NJ Chair and IRW, as well as tracing the development of Women's and Gender Studies at Douglass and the establishment of the consortium of the Institute for Women's Leadership (IWL).
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Olin returned to Rutgers University Libraries as an associate professor at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library. From 1994 to 2014, she served as the co-curator of the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, which was founded by Joan Snyder in 1971. Dr. Olin founded the Margery Somers Foster Center: A Resource Center and Digital Archive on Women, Scholarship and Leadership at the Mabel Smith Douglass Library. Along with Judy Brodsky, Dr. Olin founded and directed the Institute for Women and Art (IWA), which is now called the Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities and is part of the IWL consortium.
Dr. Olin is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at Rutgers University. In 2012, the Women's Caucus for Art awarded Dr. Olin the Art Lifetime Achievement Award.