Ada Clare (whose given name was Jane McIlheny) was born in South Carolina. As Thomas Gunn, a contemporary of Clare, describes she "made an attempt – several attempts – to become a tragic actress, but despite any amount of puffery on the part of fellows who knew her (or wanted to know her in a scriptural sense) failed. She had money and aspired for 'fame' only" (Gunn vol. 11, 160). She received a small inheritance upon her parents' deaths, which she used to travel to Paris.
The West 42nd Street Coterie was a bohemian group that often gathered at Ada Clare’s home. Clare, the “queen” of the Bohemian circle at Pfaff’s, played a pivotal role in maintaining the Bohemian society during this time. She provided a congenial atmosphere for the Pfaffians during her Sunday night receptions: “Ada Clare was magnetic in addition to her mental brightness and store of maternal treasures inherited from her family, and with her wealth and beauty she attracted the higher grades of men and women” (Rawson 103).