She was born in Latvia as Rachel Alexander and immigrated to Cape Town in 1929. In the 1930s she was active in the communist and trade union movements and was elected a member of the political bureau of the South African Communist Party in 1938.
Ray Simons was instrumental in the formation of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) and was their first national secretary. She was banned from trade union work in 1953 by the government and in 1965, she and her husband, Jack fled to Lusaka. They returned from exile in 1990. Ray Simons died in Cape Town at the age of 91.