Cicely Mary Barker was born in 1895 in Croydon, a town near London, England. She suffered from epilepsy as a child and remained physically delicate for most of her life. She was unable to go to school, so she was educated at home and spent much of her time on her own, reading and drawing.In 1908, when Cicely was 13, her father enrolled her at Croydon Art Society, where they both exhibited work. She also enrolled in a Correspondence Art course which she continued until 1918. At 16, Cicely was elected a life member of Croydon Art Society, the youngest person ever to receive this honour. The art critic for the Croydon advertiser commented: "Her drawings show a remarkable freedom of spirit. She has distinct promise."