Emily was born at Thornton in Yorkshire, the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë. In 1820, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily's father was rector, and it was in these surroundings that their literary talent flourished. In childhood, the three sisters created imaginary lands (Gondal, Angria, Gaaldine), which featured in stories they wrote. Few of Emily's work from this period survives, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontë's Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
It was the discovery of Emily's poetic talent by her family that led her and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne to publish a joint collection of their poetry in 1845. All three used male pseudonyms, Emily's being "Ellis Bell".
Like her sisters, Emily's constitution had been weakened by their harsh life at home and at school. She died on December 19, 1848 and was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels Cemetery, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.