A painter and illustrator, Peterson moved to Berkeley where she earned her M.A. degree at UC. She later studied with Hans Hofmann and Vaclav Vytlacil, and in Paris with André Lhote. She joined the art department at UC in 1928, a position she held until 1950. Until the late 1940s her painting was influenced by Picasso, she then derived her subject matter from Northwest Native American art.