Frame grew up in poverty. Her first toy was an empty kerosene tin, which she dragged behind her on a string. Her father was a railroad worker, and her mother was an amateur poet, who often had her poems published in the local papers. The family moved several times, because of reassignment by the railroad company or financial problems. The living conditions were generally filthy and decrepit. The family was close though, and Janet and her four siblings were generally happy. As a schoolgirl she was surprised when she was singled out as one of the "poor and dirty" children for special attention by a school nurse.