Gertrude Kay was born in Alliance, Ohio, The daughter of a merchant. She attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and studied with Howard Pyle at Drexel. From 1906 on, she exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts regularly. After completing her studies, she returned to Alliance, where she set up her studio and lived
until her death in an automobiie accident on December 19, 1939.

The majority of Key’s work was for children, executed in a decorative linnear style. She also wrote a large number of children’s books, including When the Sandman Comes, The Book of Seven Wishes, Helping the Weatheman, Us Kids and the Circus, and Adventures in Gorgraphy.