Bertha Runkle was born in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey and grew up in a literary family. Her father Cornelius A. Runkle was a lawyer who served as legal counsel for The New York Tribune, where her mother, Lucia Gilbert Runkle was reportedly the first American woman on the staff of a major metropolitan daily newspaper. Lucia Gilbert Runkle later wrote for The Outlook and was the co-editor with Charles Dudley Warner of the 30 volumes of Library of the World's Best Literature. Young Bertha wrote a poem that was included in one volume of this work; the poem later was included in An American Anthology, 1787-1900 by Edmund Clarence Stedman. After Bertha's father died when she was 9, she and her mother moved to New York City. There she attended Miss Bracket's, a fashionable girls' boarding school, for several years and was later home schooled by her mother. Bertha began writing from an early age. At age 21, she published her debut novel, The Helmet of Navarre, which was first serialized in The Century Magazine. The book went on to become a nationwide bestseller. In 1901, the year of its release, she worked with playwright Lawrence Marston to adapt her book into a successful Broadway play. In 1904, she married Capt. Louis Hermann Bash, an officer in the U.S. Army and accompanied him to his posting in the Philippines for three years. Her other novels included The Truth About Tolna (1906), The Scarlet Rider (1913), and The Island (1921).