Elizabeth Simpson was born at Bolton, Lancashire, England. The Simpson’s were clock makers by trade. At the early age of nine years, Elizabeth's parents died and she was was left an orphan along with several brothers and sisters. She was reared in the family of an aunt, her father's sister. In 1836, she was married to William Haigh, and to them were born two children, Sarah Ann and Samuel. Her husband died about 1840.
Soon after his death, she met the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was converted and baptized into the Church. She suffered persecution and abuse by relatives and friends for having joined a religion so unpopular as the Mormons. In 1841, she was given a blessing by a patriarch that proved a great comfort to her. One remarkable statement was that her posterity should never want for bread.
On the 11th of March 1844, she married Richard Bradshaw. Richard Bradshaw was also a member of the LDS Church, and they were prepared to leave England for America and Utah, when the news of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith reached them. They were advised to remain in England until affairs quieted down after this great tragedy. Meanwhile, Elizabeth's husband died, months before she was to give birth to a son. In this, her second widowhood, she was left with three more children; one other son had died at birth. She never gave up the hope of gathering to Zion. She worked, waited, and prayed most earnestly that God would open up the way.