Ann Louise Bucksbaum was born in Marshalltown, Iowa on April 13, 1954. She attended Bettendorf public schools before moving to Des Moines, enrolling in Merrill Junior High School and graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1973. She graduated from Stanford University in three years with majors in economics and history and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there.
The next year she took a master's degree at the London School of Economics in International Relations. She worked for investment bankers in Chicago, New York, London and Beirut. She married Thomas L. Friedman, an American journalist in London, and they moved to Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. During one of the years of Mr. Friedman's five-year assignment there when it was too dangerous for dependents to stay, Ann lived and worked in New York as a copy editor for Institutional Investor magazine. In Beirut, she also worked as a translator from French to English for subscribers of Middle Eastern business information. Formative experiences for her were hosting foreign citizens from France during junior high and high school, learning Italian in a concentrated course, and living with an Italian family in the "Experiment in International Living" the summer she was sixteen years old and leading an Experiment group in the Dordogne region of France during her college years.
Her husband won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting from Beirut. They then lived in Jerusalem for four years where their two daughters, Orly and Natalie, were born and where her husband again won the Pulitzer prize for foreign reporting. His book reflecting those years, "From Beirut to Jerusalem," won the National Book Award.
In 1988 the family moved to the Washington D. C. area, where Ann began privately teaching 5- to 8-year-olds a course she devised on world cultures and geography. She has also tutored reading for illiterate adults and English as a second language. She took a second master's degree, this time in education, and taught for nine years, concentrating on teaching first and second graders to read and write. Her husband writes the New York Times Foreign Affairs column.
Ann has served on the boards of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Music Festival and School. She has also served as a board member of Conservation International and originated its Women's Forum in Washington, D.C.