Hatherly was born in Porto, Portugal, in 1929. She obtained a degree in Germanic philology from the University of Lisbon and a doctorate in Hispanic studies from the University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, and was also trained in both film and music. Hatherly was a professor of human and social sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, where she founded the university’s Institute of Portuguese Studies. She utilized film, visual arts, and poetry in her work, which included the avant-garde.
During 1958, she started her literary career with the publication of Um Ritmo Perdido, a collection of poems. Her poetry books include Um Calculador de Improbabilidades (2001), O Pavão Negro (2003), Itinerários (2003) and Fibrilações (2005). Hatherly has published poetry, essays and fiction that has been translated into European languages, Japanese and Chinese. She later became Emeritus Professor and a founding member of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She was also the Chair of the Portuguese PEN Club.
Hatherly was interested in the visual aspects of poetry, which led to her successfully exploring
visual mediums of art, such as painting and films.