Born a slave in 1766 in Maryland, her parents were also slaves. Her father could read, and read to her frequently from the Bible, but Elizabeth remained illiterate.
At age eleven, Elizabeth was sold to a new owner who lived some miles from her family; Elizabeth was lashed for returning to visit her mother, and it was after this that she received a spiritual call to become an evangelist.
After a short time reunited with her mother, Elizabeth was sold again. Her religious visions continued. A fourth owner freed her in her 30s; he did not believe in slavery for life.
At the age of 42 in Baltimore, Elizabeth a career as a religious evangelist, preaching though she was discouraged from doing so, especially by men who did not believe that women were permitted by the Bible to be preachers. She traveled to Virginia, and as far as Canada. She often had a warmer reception by Quakers than by others.
At the age of 80, Elizabeth moved to Michigan, and during her four years there, founded an orphanage for black children, getting around opposition by staffing it with white teachers. At 87, she moved to Philadelphia where, in 1863, she published an autobiographical account, ]Memoir of Old Elizabeth, A Coloured Woman, It was republished after her death by Quakers, retitled as Elizabeth, A Colored Minister of the Gospel, Born in Slavery.