Helen Robertson was born in Hamilton, Scotland, on the 17th of December 1856 to Jane Robertson (nee Todd) and her husband William, a shoemaker. Helen was one of seven children.
Hamilton was a small mining town with a population of around 10,000.
Details of Helen’s education are unclear but, as her later work shows, she was certainly literate and well read as an adult. Education for girls in the 1860s was patchy at best, not compulsory and unlikely to go past primary level. Girls at that time tended to learn only those skills that would prepare them for household duties. However, Hamilton benefited from better educational opportunities than most, with Hamilton Academy being state of the art and very progressive. There were at least two primary schools and Sunday Schools also offered educational opportunities.
Coming from a large family, it seems unlikely that the Robertson’s could have afforded for all their children to have a complete Secondary education.