Edith Ellis, née Lees, was born in Manchester, England to a landowning family. Her mother died soon after she was born, and she was sent to a Catholic convent in Manchester and then a boarding school in London. For a time afterwards, she ran a girls' school in Sydenham, south London, but was unable to cope with its financial problems and had a breakdown. Her friend Honor Brooke took her to live with the Brooke family and they nursed her back to health. She joined the Fellowship of the New Life, contributing articles to its journal, Seed-Time, and helped form the Fabian Society. She gave feminist lectures and seemed to embody what was then called "the New Woman." She met Havelock Ellis in 1887 and married him in 1891. They had an open marriage from the beginning and lived separately. Her primary emotional and sexual relationships continued after her marriage to be with women. She published her first novel, Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll, in 1898, and became a regular contributor to The Freewoman magazine. She suffered from poor health in her forties, though she continued to write, and had another breakdown in March 1916. She died in September of that year at about age 55 of untreated diabetes. Her biographical work, James Hinton: A Sketch, was published posthumously by her husband in 1918.