Cereta was born in 1469 in Brescia. She was the eldest of six children. Her father, Silvestro Cereto was an attorney and a king's magistrate. Her family was a very prominent Italian family. Laura Cereta was sent to a convent at the age of seven to be educated. She learned religious principles and to read and write. During this time she was a very sickly child and suffered from insomnia which became the topics of her first letters. She was then brought home by her father to take care of her younger siblings at the age of nine. She might have suffered from insomnia keeping her awake and finishing chores while the other members of the family were sleeping. She learned Latin and Greek from her father.
She was married at the age of fifteen to Pietro Serina, who died of fever after only eighteen months of marriage. She was left childless and never remarried. Two years later she began a seven-year career of teaching moral philosophy at the University of Prada, but no public records exist verifying this. After the death of her husband she concentrated on scholarly pursuits, publishing a volume of her letters in 1488, called Epistolae familiares. She was highly criticized for publishing her own work. Her father died six months after she published her letters, and she no longer felt inspired to write because of her father's death and the large amount of criticism from both men and women of her time. Cereta died unexpectedly in 1499 at the age of 30. No writings from her last years of life survived.
In her letters, Cereta defended women's right to education and fought the oppression of married women. Her letters laid the groundwork for Feminism of the Enlightenment. Cereta's letters also discussed war, death, fate, chance, and malice. Her letter to Bibolo Semproni has one of the few medieval references to the 1st century BC woman poet, Cornificia. Unlike most women of her time, Cereta was able to partake in letter writing because she had social contacts to participate.