Mary Ritter Beard was born on the 5th of August, 1876 in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. Mary was the fourth of seven children and the first daughter. Her mother, who came from one of central Indiana's most prominent families, was a teacher. Her father was a lawyer who had served as a colonel in the Civil War. The family heritage included Methodism, temperance, and the Republican Party. Mary grew up in middle-class comfort in a suburban part of the city.