Mary was born at "Lynnwood" near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Some sources list her birth month as December. She was the 7th child of Abraham Hite Bowman and his wife Mary Atwood Tomlinson. She graduated from Daughters College in 1874.
She married William Shackelford Rowland on October 26, 1876. They had two children - Hugh Bowman and Mary Hite Rowland.