Ellin Berlin, née Mackay, was born to a wealthy, staunchly Roman Catholic family in New York and had a privileged childhood. She was an heiress to a great fortune derived from the Comstock Lode and telephone companies. She was educated at private schools and took courses at Barnard College. As a debutante, she was noted for her beauty and independent spirit. In 1926, she shocked society and infuriated her father -- who disinherited her -- by having a whirlwind romance with and then marrying Irving Berlin, a widower 15 years her senior and an immigrant Orthodox Russian Jew. The couple had three daughters. In 1933, she began contributing short stories to national magazines such as The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and Ladies' Home Journal. Her first novel, Land I Have Chosen, was published in 1944. Other books included Lace Curtain (1948), the semi-autobiographical Silver Platter (1957), and The Best of Families (1970). Her daughter Mary Ellin Barrett also became a writer.