Born in San Francisco to two Jewish immigrants and socialist opponents of World War I, Malvina Milder married William Reynolds, a carpenter and organizer, in 1934 and had one child, Nancy, in 1935. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of California Berkeley, and later went on to earn her doctorate there, finishing her dissertation in 1936.
Though she played violin in a dance band in her twenties, she began her songwriting career late in life. She was in her late 40s when she met Earl Robinson, Pete Seeger and other folk singers and songwriters. She returned to school at the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied music theory. She went on to write several popular songs, including ''Little Boxes'' (about suburban living, said to be inspired by Daly City, California), ''What Have They Done to the Rain'' (about nuclear fallout), ''It Isn't Nice'' (a civil rights anthem), ''Turn Around'' (sung by Harry Belafonte), and ''There's a Bottom Below'' (about being depressed). Reynolds was also a noted composer of children's songs, including ''Magic Penny'' and ''Morningtown Ride'' (a number one hit version of which was r...