Pearle B. Bonisteel, University of Oregon, was born in Columbus, Nebraska. Her father died when she was relatively young, leaving Bonisteel to develop a close bond with her mother. Her family moved to Oneida, Illinois, when she was 10 years old, and she graduated from Oneida High School at 16. Unable to go to college when she graduated, Bonisteel instead took a business course, then became a secretary for the superintendent of the Illinois Western Hospital in Watertown, Illinois. In this position, she learned valuable research and management skills and became involved with the effort to improve the treatment and care of mentally ill people. After four years at the hospital, she moved to Chicago to rejoin her family and become the secretary to the president of a stock and bond company.
After several years in that position, Bonisteel left the workforce to care for her mother. Following her mother’s death, she took a position as a chaperone at the Theta Delta Chapter house at the University of Oregon. While there, Bonisteel was initiated as a member of Theta Delta and earned her undergraduate degree.
After graduating, Pearl Bonisteel became national treasurer of Tri Delta from 1915 to 1919. In August 1917, while serving as treasurer, Bonisteel went to work with the American Friends of French Wounded, which provided funds and supplies for wounded soldiers in France. She later worked with the YWCA in New York in 1920, serving as the director of the campaign for funds among business and professional women before becoming director of the Ballard School, which offered cooking classes for women in the area.
Bonisteel became national secretary of Tri Delta from 1919 to 1925. In addition to terms as national treasurer from 1925 to 1928 and 1931 to 1934, she served as national president from 1928 to 1931.
Bonisteel died in La Grange, Illinois, on January 24, 1949.