Born in London and educated privately, she suffered ill-health in her youth, but was already writing poetry in her teens. Her engagement to a painter, James Collinson, was broken off because of religious differences (she was High Church Anglican). She also rejected a somewhat less than reputable proposition from John Ruskin. ("Here's friendship for you if you like; but love, --/No, thank you, John.")
She produced her first published verse under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne. Many of her poems were aimed at children.
Christina rejected the social world of her brother's "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood", preferring "my shady crevice -- which crevice enjoys the unique advantage of being to my certain knowledge the place assigned me."