Ella Constance Sykes was born in Stoke Damerel, Devon, England, the eldest child of the Rev. William Sykes, a chaplain to the British armed forces. She was educated at Plymouth High School and the Royal School for the Daughters of Officers in Bath. From 1881 to 1883, she studied at the newly-founded Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford. She paid two visits to Persia (modern day Iran): The first was in 1894, when she accompanied her brother, diplomat Percy M. Sykes, to the remote districts of Kerman and Baluchistan, where he was sent to establish British consulates. She was one of the first European women known to visit these areas. She also traveled with her brother on subsequent missions along the Persian Gulf and spent the winter of 1896-1897 with him in Tehran before returning to England. Ella made her second visit to Persia 10 years later and stayed with her brother in Mashad. She wrote several travelogues, including Through Persia on a Side-saddle (1898), The Story Book of the Shah (1901), intended for young readers, and Persia and Its People (1910). She also published articles and lectures in the Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society. In 1915, she travelled with her brother to Kashgar in far western China, where he was in charge of the British Consulate-General. She also did volunteer work and was an honorary secretary of the Girls’ Friendly Society in South Kensington, London.