Muriel Hughes was born in London on 29 July 1914. She was the eldest daughter of Thomas Griffiths Hughes, a haberdasher's assistant from Aberystwyth, and Elizabeth Ellen Hughes a domestic servant from Bethnal Green. They also had two other children, Jack Hughes and Stella Hughes.
Muriel was educated at Rams Episcopal Primary School and Hackney Parochial School and left school in 1928 at the age of fourteen. Her first job was working at Barlow's Metal Box Company for 5s 6d a week. She also worked as an examiner and finisher for Horne Brothers Tailoring in Hackney before marrying John Simkin, a