Carry van Bruggen was born Caroline Lea de Haan to a large Orthodox Jewish family in Smilde, the Netherlands. Her parents were Izak de Haan, a cantor, and his wife Betje Rubens, and her brother Jacob Israël de Haan became a poet. She worked as a teacher in Amsterdam and had a long affair with socialist Kees van Bruggen before marrying him in 1904 and accompanying him to the Dutch East Indies. There she began writing articles and book reviews for local newspapers and periodicals, and continued writing after returning to the Netherlands in 1907, when she published her first novel, In de shadow (In the Shade). After two children, the couple divorced in 1917. She devoted herself to her writing, producing 20 novels, a volume of short stories, and numerous articles over the next 15 years, some of them published under the pseudonyms Justine Abbing and May. Many of her books explored issues of religion, assimilation, and the quest for personal freedom. In 1920, she remarried to Aart Pit, an art historian. She suffered from depression and spent some time in psychiatric hospitals. She died at age 51 in 1932 after an overdose of sleeping pills.