Dawson, born in Goldfield, Nevada, began acting in the mid-1920s. Her first film role was in the 1927 movie The Arizona Night. She starred in four films that year, and another four in 1928. In 1929 she was one of thirteen girls selected as "WAMPAS Baby Stars", a group that included future Hollywood legend Jean Arthur. She would star in five films that year, including Broadway Scandals, which starred Jack Egan and Sally O'Neil. She was at the height of her career in 1929. With the advent of sound films, her career suffered due to what critics who dubbed her voice as grating. She had only one film role in 1930, and did not have another until 1934.
Her last film, in 1934, was The Silver Streak, starring Sally Blane and Charles Starrett. With her career dwindling, she retired from acting that same year, at the age of 25. She eventually settled in Coral Gables, Florida. She died there in 1986 at the age of 77.