Mary O'Doherty was taught at home, under the direction of her mother, by hired governesses, one of whom 'was a rara avis at that time when there was little thought about the higher education of women' (O'Doherty quoted by Justin M'Carthy in a Biographical Sketch). O'Doherty has said that she owed the development of any literary ability to that governess. As Mary Eva Kelly she was an early contributor of nationalistic essays, ballads and poems to Charles Gavan Duffy's magazine Nation, using various pseudonyms but becoming known as 'Eva' of the 'Nation'.
'Eva' was connected with the Young Ireland Movement of 1848. Kevin Izod O'Doherty (q.v.) was one of the young men in that national movement who admired 'Eva'. He was a medical practitioner and political activist, sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1848 on a charge of 'treason felony'. After O'Doherty was set free in 1854, he married 'Eva' in 1855 in London, and after living for a time in Paris and Dublin they finally settled in Brisbane in 1865, where O'Doherty practised medicine. In 1886 they returned to Ireland, where Kevin O'Doherty joined the Irish National Party and was briefly a member of the House of Commons, before returning to Queensland.