Roberta Wood was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 4, 1949. She was born to Communist parents, but her journey toward Communism took a much different path. Roberta and her family moved to Riverside, California where she graduated from high school in 1957. While traveling in Europe, she met several women who invited her to the Soviet Union for an international women's conference. After the conference, she toured the country. Upon returning to the United States in 1970, Wood joined the Communist Party. She moved to Chicago in 1974 to work in the steel mills of South Chicago, where she was active in the United Steel Workers of America.