Shulamit Reinharz was born in Amsterdam, grew up in New Jersey, and received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She was on the psychology faculty of the University of Michigan for 10 years, and in 1982 returned to Brandeis as a professor of sociology, where she held the Jacob Potofsky Chair of Sociology, until her retirement in 2017. Her areas of teaching included group dynamics, history of sociology, social psychology, and the relation between Jews, gender and art.
In the 1990s, Reinharz directed the Women's Studies Program at Brandeis University. Among many other innovations, she created its multi-faceted graduate program, including the first graduate program in Jewish Women's Studies in the world. She also initiated the Student-Scholar Partnership Program and the course on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Children, and created the National Board for Women's Studies.
Reinharz chaired Hadassah's National Commission on American Jewish Women in 1993. Subsequently, in 1997, she established the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, from which she retired in 2017.
Reinharz was the founder and director of the Women’s Studies Research Center, an interdisciplinary research facility of scholars, students, and faculty who study gender issues and women’s lives. She raised all essential funding and designed the building to house the Center. Scholars moved into the WSRC in January, 2001.