She studied music in Vigo, Madrid and Portugal. In Madrid she lived in the Residencia de Señoritas (associated with the Residencia de Estudiantes) between 1918-1925 and 1930-1935.
In 1937, after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, she left for the United States (her father Joaquín Novoa Barros was a left-wing politician). She returned to Madrid to defend her doctoral thesis at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the Universidad Complutense, but returned to the United States afterwards. There she taught Spanish, first at Columbia University and then at Vassar College (Poughhkeepsie, State of New York), where she was Head of the Department of Spanish. She retired in 1967 and settled in Madrid, where she passed away 1987. Her ashes were scattered in the Cangas cemetery (Sources: Raquel Vázquez Ramil, “Mulleres galegas na Residencia de Señoritas de Madrid” (2012), Carmen Losada, “Fuentes para el Estudio de Sofía Novoa (1902‑1987), una pianista viguesa de la Edad de Plata” (2013); “Sofía Novoa, a galega que puxo música á Xeración do 27”).