Marjorie Hill, born in Carthage, Indiana, grew up on a farm in a Quaker community. After studying English literature at Earlham College for a year, she returned home to teach in the one-room school she herself had attended. The following year, she transferred to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in 1911. In 1912, she married W.C. (Warder Clyde) Allee, a zoologist. She assisted him in the preparation of his books and scientific articles for several years, occasionally serving as co-author. Later she established herself as an author in her own right. Her first book, a collaboration with her husband, was Jungle Island (1925), a children's book describing the flora and fauna of Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal, inspired by the couple's stay there. Jane's Island (1931), a novel about scientific exploration at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, was named a Newbery Honor book.