Käthe Papke was born in Cleveland, Ohio to German parents. Her father, a merchant from Bremerhaven, was working in the USA at the time. In 1876, the family returned Germany and settled near relatives in Elbing, Prussia, where she had a happy childhood. Her father decided to sell his factory and become a Christian missionary/ While he was in training as a preacher, Käthe Papke became dangerously ill with typhus, but recovered, an event considered miraculous and that strengthened her religious faith. In Berlin with her family, she attended a private school for girls in Berlin and studied piano at the Conservatory of Music. She became a teacher, and later wrote historical novels such as Das Forsthaus im Christianental, which takes place during the Thirty Years' War. She never married and lived with her parents her whole life.