Ida Bowser was born in Tallulah, Louisiana, and in 1955 at the age of 10 she was brought to Las Vegas, Nevada to join her mother and other family members. The family originally lived on Washington and H Streets, and later moved to Madison Avenue. Ida and her brothers and sisters attended Madison Elementary School right down the block.
Ida attended high school in the ninth and tenth grades at Las Vegas High School, then transferred to Western High and graduated from there. Her first job after high school was as a teacher's aide at Variety School, which was located near Eastern on Sunrise. She returned to Louisiana until after the birth of her daughter in 1967, and came back to Vegas to work as a maid at the Sahara and Flamingo hotels.
Around this time Ruby Duncan and other women were pushing for civil rights in Las Vegas as this movement swept the country, and the federal government stepped up with on-the-job training programs. Ida was disenchanted with maid's work, and applied to the welfare office for the training. Even though she was told that the program had ended, she persisted and was eventually sent to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) library for training. She started in circulation and stayed with the library for 37 years.