Copeland was born in New York to Minnie Drasnin, a Polish immigrant.
After her father died, she was raised by her mother and step-father Abraham Copeland in Los Angeles, California. A four-time national champion in shot put, Copeland switched to the discuss throw and set a new world record at the 1928 Olympic trials. She was the first women to win a silver medal for the discus throw and later broke the Olympic and world records to win a gold at the 1932 Olympics.
She played in the 1935 (Second) World Maccabiah games but boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. A law school graduate, Copeland joined the Los Angeles county Sheriff's Department in 1936 and worked there until her retirement in 1960.
Sources: Jewish Women's Archive