Ann Bell was married at 17 and by the age of 25 had six children. In the social climate of the 1950s, being pregnant and unmarried was considered "devastating and shameful," the more so because she was considered as "the one who would be going ahead and doing a lot of things education-wise and career-wise." She married "an excellent man," and as it turned out, it was her experience as a mother, coupled with a passion for reading and learning, that were most influential in her formation as an activist.
One of her earliest involvements originated in unfair treatment at the school of one of her children who had dyslexia. After attempting to advocate with her son's teacher, the school principal, and the district superintendent, Ann decided to run for the school board election. With a single-minded goal to "just get on the school board," Ann found that she could gain the support of friends and neighbours by explaining how she would work for their interests. She won the election, and learned a valuable lesson:
I made these personal contacts with people and they went to the meeting to vote for me. They were friends, they were neighbours, and they were family.