Minerva Kohlhepp was born in North Ogden, but grew up homestead farming in the vicinity of American Falls, Idaho. Her father encouraged her childhood sketching and she soon developed an "indomitable will to succeed and excel in the field of art." She taught school to raise enough money to go to Chicago for her art studies. When she had raised the money, her father would not let her go alone. It was arranged for her to be "set apart" as an LDS missionary so that she could travel with a church group.She became the first known female artist to pursue her painting lessons with the specific and official blessings of the LDS hierarchy. When money ran low in Chicago, she put together a roping act for the New York stage. This is when she began her custom of wearing her distinctive head band. She became very good friends with her teacher, Robert Henri. He encouraged her to go home and "paint the Mormon story." And this is what she determined to do with her life.