Ethel Anderson was born in 1883 at Lillington, England, the child of Australian-born parents. In Sydney, she was educated at home and at Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls. In 1904 she married Major Austin Anderson at Bombay, India. Major Anderson served in World War I and continued his military career after the war, retiring as Brigadier in 1924. The Andersons moved to Sydney where Austin Anderson began his long tenure of service for several governors.
Drawing on her experiences in Australia, England and India, Ethel Anderson began contributing to a variety of periodicals. During the 1940s she published two volumes of verse and four volumes of essays and short stories. She also edited the letters of Patrick Hore-Ruthven. Anderson's knowledge of English, French and classical literature is reflected in her prose and poetry. Her admirable experimentation with metre and form in poetry is matched by the rich use of fantasy and comedy in her prose.
'Small and dark ... with charm, a sense of humour and a zest for living', Anderson 'became quite deaf' in later life. Described as 'a somewhat formidable old lady', she subsequently 'brandished an immense, silver ear-trumpet, adorned with chiffon to match her dresses'. Although her husband's death left her 'virtually penniless' in 1949, her professionalism as a writer determined that she was capable of earning enough money to survive.
Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography Online; John Douglas Pringle, 'Foreword', The Best of Ethel Anderson (1973).