Rachel Blaustein was the 11th child of Russian-Jewish parents. Her father was a businessman who earned a fortune in the diamond trade and land transactions. The family was cultured and spoke several languages. During Esther's childhood, the family moved to Poltava, Ukraine, where she attended a Jewish school and later a secular high school. She began writing poetry at an early age. At 17, she moved to Kiev, where she took up painting. Two years later, she visited Palestine with her sister Shoshana, en route to Italy, where they planned to study art and philosophy. The sisters decided to stay on in Palestine as Zionist pioneers. Although she didn't know a word of Hebrew, and had to learn the language with children in kindergartens, Rachel became one of the first modern Hebrew poets. In 1913, she went to Toulouse, France, to study agriculture. The outbreak of World War I made it impossible for her to return to Palestine, so she went to Russia, where she taught Jewish refugee children. In Russia, she suffered the recurrence of a childhood lung disease and may have contracted tuberculosis. In 1919, she was able to return to Palestine. For some time, she worked at Kibbutz Degania, a farming community not far from the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew). However, the lung disease made her unfit for working with children, and she left the kibbutz for Jerusalem and later Tel Aviv. She spent her final years traveling before entering a TB sanatorium in Gedera. She died at age 40 and was buried in a cemetery overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Many of her poems have been set to music.