Mary Ellis Bolles was the only daughter of John Bolles and Mary Martin Bolles, and was born in Englewood, New Jersey. Her family was an affluent one of English origin. Mary's parents were part of the upper-crust of New York society, mixing with millionaires such as Phoebe Hearst.
As a young girl she made many visits to Paris and became very fond of the city. She eventually moved to the city whilst her brother Randolph was attending the École des Beaux-Arts.
Pilgrimage to Acre
In 1898 whilst in Paris May became acquainted with Phoebe Hearst through her mother who was chaperoning Hearst’s nieces. It was in February 1899 that the first group of Western pilgrims met `Abdu'l-Bahá. May wrote that "of that first meeting I can remember neither joy nor pain nor anything that I can name".