Louise Thompson was born in Chicago in 1902. Later the family moved to San Francisco and she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) where she met her future husband, William Patterson in 1919.
Louise graduated from the University of California in 1923 with a degree in economics. She became a school teacher in Arkansas and later at the Hampton Institute in Virginia. After her marriage to William Patterson she lived in New York City.
In 1930 Louise Patterson was a delegate to the World Conference Against Racism and Anti-Semitism in Paris, France and on her return was active in the battle to save the lives of the Scottsboro Boys, a case where nine young black men were falsely charged with the rape of two white women on a train.
Louise Patterson was President of the International Workers Order (IWO), an organization that worked in defence of workers' rights. She also served with Paul Robeson and William Du Bois on the Council of African Affairs.