From the page: "Bow was born in a tenement in Brooklyn, New York, the only surviving child of a dysfunctional family afflicted with mental illness, poverty, and physical and emotional abuse. She was the third child of Robert Bow and Sarah Gordon; the first two, also daughters, died within days of their births. Bow was born during a severe heat wave, and Bow's mother, hoping that she and her third child would die from the heat, did not bother to call a doctor or get a birth certificate. Bow did not cry after she was born so her Grandmother thought her to be dead and tried to make sure of it by shaking her but miraculously, the baby awoke.
Suffering from severe neglect throughout her childhood, she was often filthy, hungry, and ill-clothed, which caused other girls to taunt her; instead, Bow became a tomboy and ran the streets with neighborhood boys. One of Bow's only childhood friends, a boy named Johnny, was severely burned and died in her arms when she was nine years old. Years later, she would make herself cry at will on a movie set by asking the band to play the lullaby "Rock-a-bye Baby". She said it reminded her of Johnny because that was the song Johnny's mother would sing to help him fall asleep.
Bow's mother was an occasional prostitute who suffered from mental illness and epilepsy. Bow's father, Robert Bow, was rarely present and may have had a mental impairment. Whenever he returned home, he was verbally and physically abusive to both wife and daughter. Bow almost never spoke of the trauma of her early years, unwilling to exploit them for publicity.
Clara's mother Sarah considered actresses no different than prostitutes and took to threatening to kill her for her ambitions. One night, Clara awoke to find her mother holding a butcher knife at her throat. She said, "I'm gonna kill you, Clara. It'll be better." and then fainted into an epileptic seizure. This incident was the beginning of Clara's lifelong, losing battle with insomnia. A few weeks later, her mother attacked her again, chasing Clara around their flat with a knife and then banishing her to the streets. She wandered Coney Island, traumatized, for two days until her father, Robert found her and brought her home. Robert was unwilling to take responsibility for his homicidal wife, so he committed Sarah to an asylum, where she died shortly afterward. Clara blamed herself for her mother's death for the rest of her life, feeling that her choice of career was somehow responsible for it."