The daughter of Martha E. Hubbell, who authored the very successful novel The Shady Side, or Life in a Country Parsonage, Mary E. Hubbell was born in New Haven County, Connecticut. Her parents taught their precocious firstborn to read and write at home, and in 1847 she began attending summer schools in Avon, Connecticut, where she learned the traditional feminine "accomplishments," music and art. At age sixteen she enrolled in the female seminary in Ipswich, Massachusetts, for some degree of formal education.
In 1851 she moved to New Haven, where she accepted a position as assistant teacher at Miss Morse's school. Her teaching salary went largely toward her brother's education, and she made frequent trips to New York and Connecticut to see her family. She and her mother remained extremely close; her uncle testified to their bond in his memorial of her, writing that "no human love came between her and her mother's heart."
After teaching in Baltimore for a year, Mary Hubbell returned to her family's home in Connecticut in 1853, and she shortly fell sick with an "ugly cough," fever, and fatigue. A year-long struggle with illness ended with her death in June 1854. To memorialize her daughter, Martha Hubbell determined to write a biography of Mary based on her journals and correspondences and to publish it in a volume containing her daughter's poetry and portrait. Martha only wrote eighteen pages of the memorial before succumbing to illness herself, and Mary Hubbell's uncle, well-known editor and publisher David Marvin Stone, completed and oversaw the publication of the project.