She was the first female student of Uppsala University, the first woman in Sweden to have graduated from a university, and the first woman to have been a teacher at a gymnasium.
She became the first official female university student in Sweden in 1871. She was not born in to a wealthy family, however, when she was discovered to be a talented student, she was given the opportunity to study at a private girl school in Visby, were normally only pupils from wealthy families were accepted. As an adult, she worked as a governess for several different families from the nobility from the 1850s onward.
By a reform in 1870, women were given the right to study at universities.
Pettersson was accepted as a student the same year, though she did not begun her studies at the first attempt. She graduated from Nya elementarskolan in Stockholm 16 May 1871 as the first of her sex to do so: this being a school for males, and no Gymnasium (school) being available yet for women, she was forced to study in private, as a so-called privatist, and then graduate from the school: Wallinska skolan was to be the first girl school given the right to issue first professional degrees in 1874.
Again a pioneer, she was accepted at Uppsala university 27 February 1872. Finally, she became historical upon her graduation on 28 January 1875.
She was met with a great deal of dislike from many male fellow students.
After graduation, she worked as a teacher at a Gymnasium (school) for boys, the Ladugårdslands lägre elementarläroverk, from 1877 until 1884. She was again a pioneer as the first female teacher at a Gymnasium (school). As a person, she was described as dutiful, popular among her students and as a skillful educator.
Betty Pettersson died of consumption.
Betty was a member of Gotland nation and the nation today names its public "Bettys" after her.