Minna Keal's work has a double claim upon the attention of audiences: first, its intrinsic interest as music, and second, because of the unusual career of its creator. Born in the East End of London, she attended the Royal Academy of Music from 1928 to 1929, studying with Thomas Knott (piano) and William Alwyn (composition); however, her life as a student was abruptly cut short by family responsibilities following the death of her father. Although she had shown herself a composer of real ability, she found herself unable to resume composition until nearly fifty years later.

Instead her energy was thrown into the family business, her own family, and into politics: she began to be interested in politics at the time of the Spanish Civil War, joining the Communist party in 1939, opposing Oswald Moseley's Blackshirts, and subsequently helping to rescue hundreds of children from Nazi Germany through a committee she formed with her husband.

Continuing her piano studies through her working years, she taught piano privately; it was a chance meeting with an examiner, composer Justin Connolly, that  led him to persuade her to take up composition again, which she did at the Royal College of Music with Connolly; her works included a Symphony, Cello Concerto and Cantillation for violin and orchestra as well as chamber works.