Sara Sophia Hennell was born in the borough of Hackney, in London, England. Her father, a partner in a firm of Manchester merchants, died when she was very young. She and her 7 siblings were raised in the Unitarianism of Joseph Priestley and Thomas Belsham. They studied languages, religion, and literature. Her sisters Mary Hennell and Caroline Hennell Bray, and her brother Charles Hennell, also became writers. They're considered to be the models for the fictional Meyrick family in George Eliot's 1876 novel Daniel Deronda. Sara had met Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) in 1842, and the two women corresponded constantly and visited each other over the next 12 years. Sara worked for many years as the governess of the children of John Bonham-Carter. In 1851, Sara and her mother moved to Coventry to live next door to Caroline Bray and her family. Sara's writings on theology included Christianity and Infidelity (1857), Present Religion as a Faith owning Fellowship with Thought (3 volumes, 1865, 1873 and 1887) and Thoughts in Aid of Faith (1865).