Harriet Monroe was born on December 23, 1860, in Chicago. He was the fourth of seven children of Henry Stanton and Martha (Mitchell) Monroe. Three of her brothers died in infancy, but Dora Louise, Harriet (christened "Hattie"), Lucy, and William Stanton grew to maturity. Her father's family, of Highland Scots Jacobite descent (the name had originally been spelled Munro), had emigrated to America in the eighteenth century. Later, they moved from Connecticut to western New York, whence Harriet's father, a young attorney looking for a promising city in which to locate his practice, moved on in 1852 to Chicago. Harriet's childhood was one of moderate prosperity and indulgence in which her father's warm and commanding personality played an important part. Following the great fire of 1871, however, his career met with a series of reverses which by the last decade of the century reduced the family circumstances sharply.