Alice Ann La Trobe-Bateman was born on June 16, 1880 in Manchester, England. Her upper middle class background was religious and also service oriented. Both parents died by the time Alice was eight, so she and her sister lived from then on with their grandparents in Surrey. They were educated by governesses and later attended a finishing school in London.

Alice, in the Unfinished Autobiography, describes the first 20 years of her life as completely disciplined by the people and social conventions of her time. After school, and following the family trend, she worked as an evangelist for the British army in Ireland and India, "forcefully preaching the old-time religion," as she described it. It was during these stints that she gained early and valuable experience in leadership and management. 

In India Alice met Walter Evans, later married him and settled in the United States where he studied theology and was ordained in the Episcopal Church. She became the mother of three daughters, a busy minister’s wife, and Bible class teacher. This phase didn’t last long, however; her husband’s uncontrollable temper and physical abusiveness forced a separation and divorce, and Alice found herself working in a California sardine cannery in order to support her daughters and herself.

It was at this time, in 1915 when she was 35, that Alice came into contact with Theosophy through two English women who befriended her. She spent the next several years laboring in the cannery while studying the new Theosophical ideas – attending meetings and poring over Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine and attempting to integrate those ideas with the strict Christianity of her upbringing. Before long, Alice began teaching classes in Theosophy at the Lodge in Pacific Grove, California.

Another factor becomes pertinent at this point. Beginning when Alice was a teenager in England, she had been under the supervision of a mysterious man who had visited her in person twice. In the Shrine room of the Theosophical Lodge, she saw a portrait of this man on the wall and only then learned that his name was Master Koot Humi and that he was a member of the Spiritual Hierarchy. Her spontaneous and joyous recognition was viewed by the other members of the Lodge as an effort to claim special status for herself. From then on, until she broke with the Theosophists in 1920, Alice became the center of swirling glamors and controversies as she steadily undertook more responsibility and deepened her knowledge through intense study and teaching.

In early 1919, when she was working at Krotona (the American headquarters of the Theosophical Society, then located in Hollywood, and since 1926 in Ojai, California), two significant events occurred. The first was her initial meeting with Master Djwhal Khul, a member of the Spiritual Hierarchy and a personal disciple of Master Koot Humi. That took place one morning whenh Alice was sitting on a hillside near her house. She heard a clear note of music tat seemed to sound in the air, in the hill and in her body. She then heard a voice, which said, "There are some books that it is desired should be written for the public. You can write them. Will you do so?" Without a moment’s thought, she refused. She had no interest in psychic activity and at the time didn’t know the credentials of her mysterious interlocutor. He persisted, however, and she eventually agreed to serve as his amanuensis and secretary. Thus began a telepathic relationship that continued for 30 years, until Alice passed on in 1949. (Note: The mode of communication was telepathy rather than channeling since Master DK was then – and may still be – occupying a physical body in Tibet. Hence he has most often been referred to as "the Tibetan.") Their collaboration began in the form of "letters" to Alice, providing the needed information, advice, and encouragement to support her teaching and writing activities. Some of these writings made it into the earliest books: Initiation, Human and Solar and Letters on Occult Meditation. Some of the letters to her from this period remain unpublished.

The second significant event of 1919 was Alice’s friendship with another Krotona worker, Foster Bailey, an American born in Massachusetts. Their spiritual partnership blossomed into much more; and in 1921 they were married, after relocating to New York City to found the Arcane School and its umbrella organization, Lucis Trust.

By 1923 the Arcane School was in operation, the Lucis Publishing Company had been founded (also under the aegis of Lucis Trust), the two books mentioned above had been published, and a modest esoteric journal, The Beacon, was being issued monthly. The journal’s subtitle on its first few issues was "A Little Periodical Intended for Theosophists," and it accordingly contained mostly articles from Theosophical sources, some many decades old. But the August 1922 issue contains an extract from "Mrs. Alice A. Bailey's latest book, Initiation, Human and Solar." That was actually the first published book written by the Tibetan, but of course there is no mention of him. Their arrangement was that all his books would be published under her name and that his identity would remain a secret in order to guard against the damaging onslaught of mass glamor. As time passed, it became common knowledge that Alice was collaborating with a member of the Hierarchy; indeed, the books are written as by a Master so that point couldn't be concealed. Then, in the 1930s, Alice accidentally leaked DK's identity, and the "cat was out of the bag." There were no unpleasant repercussions, however, because DK smoothed the way by writing an article that was calculated to stem the tide of glamor and steer people's thinking along the correct lines. The article was published in The Beacon in 1934, and an extract from it was thenceforth placed at the beginning of every book that he was responsible for.

In her Autobiography, Alice Bailey mentions that her life became uneventful after 1923. She clarified this by explaining that all she did was work. Indeed, the amount of work she was accomplishing was prodigious. Most mornings she would awaken at 3 AM in order to take dictation from Master DK. She would then see the girls off to school, go in to Lucis Trust and put in a full day's work there. The work included voluminous writings, developing the coursework of the School, performing the duties of executive director, and corresponding with students, colleagues, and inquirers. She once said that she wrote as many as 10,000 letters a year (many of which were dictated). She also gave public talks in New York and London, organized and presided over conferences both in New York and in Europe (the School had – and still has – branches in London and Geneva), and for the last decade of her life, held regular Friday evening lectures/discussions with advanced students in the Arcane School. Foster, as well as special students who became colleagues and close friends such as Regina Keller, shared as much of the work as possible, but her life was a backbreaking round of labor nevertheless. Alice once said that she was a member of the "suicide squad" – servers of humanity who literally worked themselves to death, thereby accomplishing more in a shorter span of time.

Her health had broken by her early 60s; but, as the Tibetan's project was still unfinished, he arranged for an extension of her life by enforcing much rest and a limited schedule during her last years. One of her afflictions was pernicious anemia for which she had to undergo occasional blood transfusions.

When Alice Bailey finally passed on in December 1949, there was more that she had planned to accomplish, including the next stage of advanced training in the Arcane School; but the "books that it is desired should be written" had been written (19 of them, not counting the six she herself wrote), and she was gratefully released from physical plane struggles into greater service for her Master, Koot Humi.