Sarah Drake was born in Skeyton on 24 July 1803, the same area of Norfolk as the London University botanist John Lindley and went to school with Lindley's sister Anne. As a young woman, she went to Paris, where she probably studied painting as was expected of young women of the day. In 1830 "Ducky" (as she became known) moved into the Lindley home at Acton Green in London. She appears to have had a number of roles in the Lindley home, including that of governess, but eventually took up botanical art, gradually taking over from Lindley the illustration of his botanical publications. She created illustrations for his Sertum Orchidaceae, for example, as well as over 1000 illustrations for the horticultural magazine Edwards's Botanical Register, which Lindley edited from 1829 to 1847. More than 300 of these drawings were of orchids and Lindley named the Western Australianorchid genus Drakaea in her honour.