Frances McKittrick was born in East Grinstead, England in 1935. When she was four years of age, her family immigrated to the United States. She was the youngest of four sisters and was raised in a family with a love of nature. Her father, an amateur naturalist, meticulously recorded his ecological observations. During her early years, she lived in New York City.
Frances McKittrick obtained a Ph.D. in biology, the first woman in her family to do so. After completing her PhD, she was appointed as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. This was where her career in scientific illustration started to grow. Her grandfather, an illustrator of textbooks, had passed on her artistic talents to her. She was also an artist teacher during this time. She illustrated books and textbooks on ocean life and other aquatic animals.