Mary Clemmer Ames was born in Utica, New York, the eldest child in a large family. Her parents were Abraham Clemmer, descended from Alsatian Huguenots, and his wife Margaret, who had emigrated to the USA from the British Isle of Man. Her father’s financial troubles led her into marriage at age 20 to the Rev. Daniel Ames, a Presbyterian minister. The union was unhappy from the start and the couple often lived apart until they were finally divorced in 1874. In 1859, she moved to New York City, where she lived with two of her sisters, who introduced her to Horace Greeley and other newspaper editors. In Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, she served as a nurse in Union hospitals. As a witness to the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry, she wrote about her experiences in an article entitled "The Battle of Harper's Ferry As a Woman Saw It," which was published in the New York Evening Post. At the end of the war, she remained in Washington and began a career as a newspaper journalist. In 1866, she published her first "Woman’s Letter" column in the New York Independent and continued to write it until her death. Among the other papers she wrote for were the Springfield (MA) Republican, the New York Press, the Cincinnati Commercial, and the Brooklyn Daily Union. She also wrote poetry and fiction. Her home in Washington became the center of a literary and social circle. In 1883, she remarried to Edmund Hudson, editor of the Army and Navy Register. Her complete works were published in four volumes posthumously in 1885.