Sarah Stickney was born to a middle-class Quaker family in Yorkshire, England. Her first work, The Negro Slave, A Tale, Addressed to the Women of Great Britain, was published anonymously in 1830. In 1837, she married the Rev. William Ellis, a leader in the London Missionary Society, and with him she worked for the Congregationalist missionary cause and to promote their mutual interest in temperance. Sarah Stickney Ellis also wrote 34 books and became the most popular writer of Victorian moral conduct literature for women. She also wrote novels, poems, and didactic short fiction. Her best known works, including the enormously popular manual The Women of England: Their Social Duties and Domestic Habits, appeared under the name of "Mrs Ellis." A firm believer in the idea that women could exert a powerful influence over men and children, she also established a school at Rawdon House, Hertfordshire, to give girls the intellectual and moral training to do so.