Laura Van Pappelendam was born in Donnellson, Iowa. She graduated from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois in 1909. She received her B.A. from the Art Institute in 1926 (the first year the school offered the degree). In 1929 Van Pappelendam received her Ph.B. from the University of Chicago. Van Pappelendam began teaching at the School of the Art Institute in 1909. Upon her retirement in 1959 she was named Professor Emeritus. Van Pappelendam was also an Instructor in the Art Department of the University of Chicago, (1918-1948). She was named Instructor Emeritus upon her retirement from the University.
As an artist, Van Pappelendam was primarily known for her painting. She worked in oil, encaustic, pastel, and watercolors. Her work appears in permanent collections including: the Art Institute of Chicago; John H. Vanderpoel Memorial Art Gallery, Chicago; Illinois State Museum; Lee County Historical Society, Keokuk, Iowa; Art League, Oak Park, Illinois; and the University of Chicago.