Born in England, she emigrated (1851) to the United States in early childhood and grew up on a farm in Michigan. She received a degree in theology (1878) and one in medicine (1885) from Boston Univ. Although the Methodist Episcopal Church refused to allow her to preach, she was ordained (1880) by the Methodist Protestant denomination. She had filled several pastorates in Massachusetts when, in 1888, she met Susan B. Anthony and from then on devoted her life to working for woman suffrage. She was vice president at large (1892–1904) and president (1904–15) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In Anthony's last years, she was her constant associate. Dr. Shaw campaigned in every state where a suffrage measure was under consideration; she was one of the most effective speakers of the movement.
See her autobiography, The Story of a Pioneer (1915).