Sarah Helen Aldrich, later Helen De Kroyft, was born and raised near Rochester, New York. As a young women, she taught school in the winters while attending classes during the summers, thus learning mathematics, French, and Italian, and she graduated from Lima Seminary in New York. In 1845 she married Dr. William De Kroyft, who died tragically by falling out of a carriage on their wedding day, and a few weeks later she awoke to find that she had suddenly gone blind.
Taking up a brief residence at the New York Institute for the Blind, she began to write submissions for newspapers and periodicals, as well as lengthy letters to family and friends. Widowed and disabled, she endeavored to support herself by publishing a collection of her correspondences in which she explained that "these letters are simply copies of my own thoughts and feelings … laid bare … to the world for the sake of dollars." This book, A Place in Thy Memory (1850), published on both sides of the Atlantic, went through several editions, as did her other works Little Jakey and Mortara.