Martha Ann Rolingson was born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado, graduating from high school in Denver. She became interested in archeology on vacations in the southwestern states and attended the University of Denver (B.A., 1957) with majors in anthropology and education.
Rolingson earned an M.A. in Anthropology in 1960 from the University of Kentucky and was Museum Curator at its Museum of Anthropology; she then continued as Research Associate, 1960–1963. Her research interests were Native American hunter-gatherer cultures in the southeastern United States. She conducted research supported by a National Science Foundation grant and published Late Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Manifestations in Western Kentucky (1966), co-authored with Dr. D. W. Schwartz, then director of the Museum. She attended the University of Michigan (1963–65) toward her Ph.D. and returned to UK as Instructor in Anthropology and Acting Director of the Museum of Anthropology (1965–68). Rolingson completed her dissertation on hunter-gatherer cultures of the Middle Green River Region, Kentucky (Ph.D., 1967) and, while at UK, carried out several archeological projects.
Rolingson was hired in 1968 by the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a division of the University of Arkansas system. Over the next 37 years she had various responsibilities as both archeologist and professor. She was instructor and field supervisor on numerous projects working with people interested in archeology, and she directed Arkansas Archeological Society Training Programs in conjunction with her research and assisted other Survey archeologists. Rolingson provided advice and information on archeology to state and federal agencies and to the public, and presented public programs. She taught undergraduate and graduate classes at three universities with research interests in archeology and prehistory of the Midsouth region and Lower Mississippi Valley, particularly farming cultures, community planning, and material culture.
Working with Arkansas State Parks, Rolingson directed research at the Toltec Mounds site and Plum Bayou culture in central Arkansas (1975–2005), with several state and federal agencies supporting funding for research and development. Her final report, Toltec Mounds: Archeology of the Mound-and-Plaza Complex (2012), analyzed 30 years of research. She was resource person for public programs, exhibits, and park development at Toltec Mounds State Park and published several monographs and numerous articles and book chapters on Arkansas archeology.
Rolingson retired to Texas in 2005 to live near her family. She is president of the Alvin Library League, a support group of the library, and enjoys Native American basketry, genealogy, travel, needlepoint, and reading.