Fathima Beevi was born on 30 April 1927 at Pathanamthitta, Travancore (now Kerala, India) as the daughter of Meera Sahib and Khadeeja Bibi. She did her schooling in Catholicate High School, Pathanamthitta and got her B.Sc. from University College, Trivandrum. She obtained her B.L. from Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.
She was enrolled as Advocate on 14 November 1950. She began her career in the lower judiciary in Kerala. She was appointed as the Munsiff in the Kerala Sub-ordinate Judicial Services in May, 1958. She was promoted as the Sub-ordinate Judge in 1968 and as the Chief Judicial Magistrate in 1972, as District & Sessions Judge in 1974.
She was further appointed as the Judicial Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in January, 1980. She was then elevated to the High Court as a Judge on 4 August 1983.
She became permanent Judge of the High Court on 14 May 1984. She retired as the Judge of the High Court on 29 April 1989 but was further elevated to the Supreme Court as a Judge on 6 October 1989 where she retired on 29 April 1992.
Her appointment to the Supreme Court over several senior judges was seen as a political decision by Rajiv Gandhi following the controversy over the Muslim Women's (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.
She later went on to become Governor of Tamil Nadu on 25 January 1997. Appointing her as the Governor of the TN and Justice Sukhdev Singh Kang, former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, as Governor of Kerala, the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma said "Their experience of and insights into the working of the Constitution and the laws comprise valuable assets." As the Governor of the state, she rejected the mercy petitions filed by the four condemned prisoners in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.The prisoners had sent the mercy petitions to the Governor, pleading her to exercise her power under Article 161 of the Constitution (the Governor's power to grant pardon).
As the Governor of the state she had also served as the Chancellor of Madras University. It was reported by university sources that the Vice-Chancellor, P.T. Manoharan, had decided to quit his office in the wake of the Chancellor allegedly withholding her approval to the Syndicate’s decision to establish a new department for contemporary Tamil literature. She had also served as the Chairman of Kerala Commission for Backward Classes(1993) and member of National Human Rights Commission ( 1993). She received Hon. D Litt and Mahila Shiromani Award in 1990. She was also awarded Bharat Jyoti Award. The left parties also discussed the nomination of the prospects of Fathima Beevi as the President of India, during which the NDA Government proposed the name of Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam.