Mary Shackleton (or Shakleton) was born into a Quaker family in Ireland. She received an excellent education, and in 1784 travelled to London with her father and paid several visits to the statesman Edmund Burke, where she met Sir Joshua Reynolds and George Crabbe. In 1791, she married William Leadbeater, a small farmer and landowner, and the couple resided in the village of Ballitore. Mary Leadbeater managed the village post office and became the unofficial cultural historian of the place. She based her autobiography on her own diary, and also published dialogues and short fiction, and edited writings by both her parents. Her "Extracts and Original Anecdotes for the Improvement of Youth" (1794) was originally published anonymously.