Elsie Frances Weil was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 27, 1889, the daughter of Jacob and Pauline Weil. Her siblings included Leo, Simon, Harvey, and Jacob. After earning a Ph.B. from the University of Chicago in 1910, she pursued a career as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines. As a young woman, Weil became acquainted with Gertrude Emerson; the women formed a close bond and later lived together in New York City, where Weil was associate editor (1917-1925) and managing editor (1932-1946) for Asia magazine. She worked for multiple additional newspapers throughout her career.
Gertrude Emerson was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, on May 6, 1890, the daughter of Alfred and Alice Emerson. Her siblings included Edith, Willard, and Alfred. After receiving a Ph.B. from the University of Chicago in 1912, Emerson taught at the Girton School in Winnetka, Illinois. She became close friends with Elsie F. Weil during Emerson's time in Illinois, and the women lived together in New York City from the late 1910s to the mid-1920s. Like Weil, Emerson wrote for Asia magazine and other publications. She traveled to Europe and Asia several times, occasionally accompanied by Weil, and later moved permanently to India, marrying Basiswar Sen in Calcutta on November 2, 1932. Gertrude Emerson Sen died in 1982.