Emma Jane Clarke was born in Plumstead on 2nd December 1871 to John and Caroline Clarke. Her mother, Caroline, was born in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) and was said to be the daughter of a relationship between a British national residing in southern part of the country during the middle of the 19th century, and a dark-skinned local. It is not yet clear whether the latter was one of the African people who had resided in South Ceylon since the 15th century (and still there today), or whether it was one of the darker indigenous South Ceylonese people of the region. Caroline, however, was accepted as the daughter of Mr and Mrs Bogg (Emma’s British grandparents), and taken back to England, where she grew up in mid-19th century London. She would later marry a certain John Clarke and bore him 10 children. Emma was the fifth child, seven of whom were girls. One her younger sister's, Florence, was also a very talented footballer, and along with Emma also played for British Ladies FC.