Clara Sophia Neal (name Mary comes later) is born June 5, in Birmingham, to father, David Neal, a button manufacturer, and mother, Sarah Anne. Her childhood is shared with 2 younger brothers, Arthur and Theodore. She keeps pets: cats, dogs, doves, guinea pigs and rabbits. As a girl, her schooling is patchy. Queen Victoria is on throne. Viscount Palmerston, Prime Minister.
She finds Victorian family life a ‘pageant of snobbery’. She reads Henry Thoreau, John Stuart Mill, Edward Carpenter and develops a growing concern for social injustice. Reading Mearn’s ‘Bitter Cry of Outcast London’ she decides to ‘do’ something with her life.