Sandra Harding was born in San Francisco, California, the first of five children born to Lloyd and Constance Harding. Her father's struggle to find work during the Great Depression led the family to Los Angeles, where they operated a roadside diner until the outbreak of World War II. At that point, her father got a position in the civil service and the family moved once again, this time to the East Coast. Harding recounts experiencing sexism in her elementary and secondary schooling in New Jersey, but recalls a warmly loving family environment which included encouragement for the children—both daughters and son—to pursue their educational aspirations. Earning tuition through summer jobs as a waitress and at the telephone company, Harding attended Douglass College and studied literature.
After graduation, Harding moved to New York City where she worked at ABC and held soirees with her friends at her Greenwich Village apartment. She met and married Harold Morick, at that time a graduate student in philosophy at Columbia University. Morick was writing his dissertation on Wittgenstein, and Harding contributed her efforts as typist. After he completed his PhD, they settled in Albany, where Morick got a position in the philosophy department at the State University of New York. There, they welcomed two daughters, a year apart. With the women's movement gaining momentum, Harding found herself dissatisfied with the role of faculty wife and decided to join the ranks of wives and mothers returning to school for graduate degrees. She began coursework in sociology at SUNY-Albany. When she decided to switch to philosophy, she transferred to New York University, partly in an effort to keep some separation between her budding career and Morick's. She elected to focus her dissertation on the epistemology of Willard Van Orman Quine.
Harding's first faculty appointment was at SUNY-Albany's Allen Center. There she began work on feminist standpoint theory. Following an amicable divorce from Morick, Harding accepted a position at the University of Delaware. She was drawn to the University of Delaware because of its active philosophy department, which included a master's program and a focus area on the philosophy of science. She also appreciated Wilmington's proximity to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, DC, which presented her with many opportunities for networking and for involvement in research and writing work for programs run by the United Nations. Harding recalls some strife within the department, especially in the form of vituperative anti-feminist critique of her work, and recalls that the critical tone of her tenure letter belied the 100 percent vote in favor of tenure for her. While at the University of Delaware, Harding began expanding feminist standpoint theory to incorporate perspectives from the feminisms of Women of Color feminism, and she relished her contact with the Black intellectual community in the Northeast.
After a period of splitting her time between the University of Delaware and the University of California, Los Angeles, she accepted a full-time appointment at UCLA's Graduate School of Education. There she continued her active engagement in professional societies including the American Philosophical Association, the Society for Women in Philosophy and the Society for Social Studies of Science. She served as editor of Signs and worked with colleagues in Latin America to create the journal Tapuya.
Throughout this multi-session interview, Harding often reflects on the influence of social justice movements—the women's movement, the civil rights movement, and the independence and post-colonial movements in nations around the world—on her work, and her steadfast commitment to producing work that furthers those movements. She emphasizes the practical and managerial approach she has taken towards her writing, teaching and mentorship of students. She describes herself as a "rogue philosopher," and delights in Sharon Traweek's characterization of her as someone who "plants herself on the borders of institutions and refuses to go away."