Born an illegitimate child in East Ham, Essex, (now Greater London), she spent much of her early years in seclusion and was placed in an orphanage at the age of 9. She was subsequently sent to Canada to work on a farm, where she stayed until she was 19 before moving back to East Ham to live with her aunt, who introduced her to Spiritualism and astrology. At the age of 25, she married her cousin, Thomas Edwin Gill, a stockbroker. Together they had three sons with their second, Reginald, dying of the Spanish flu. The following year she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl and almost died herself, contracting a serious illness that left her bedridden for several months and blind in her left eye.