Clara Elizebeth Smith was born into a working-class Quaker family on August 26, 1892, in the small city of Huntington, Indiana, United States. She grew up there on her parents' small farm.
Elizebeth's father, John Marion Smith, was a farmer, Civil War veteran, and Republican politician. He had traced his American family back to 1682, the year one of his ancestors arrived on the same ship as William Penn, the Quaker nobleman and writer after whom Pennsylvania is named.
Elizebeth's mother was Sopha Smith (née Strock). She ran the home and cared for the family's nine children - Elizebeth was the youngest.