Emily was the sister of Matilda Jane Evans, the third daughter of Henry Congreve, a deacon in the Baptist Church, and his second wife Elizabeth Ann Jacob. She came to Australia with her family in 1852 on the Chatham as an assisted immigrant. Her mother died on the voyage (Congreve's 'Lines Occasioned by My Mother's Death' recounts her mother's death on ship and burial at sea), and her father died soon after their arrival.
The family rented a house in Finniss St, North Adelaide for a while. Emily probably assisted her sister Matilda in the schools she ran, and possibly worked for a while as a nursery governess (Wall, Our Own Matilda, 1994, p. 24). She moved with her sister to Yunkunga, near Mt Barker, in 1855. In 1857 she set up a school in Prospect and taught there until 1861. She taught at Athelstone 1862-4, and possibly taught in Matilda's schools after this, perhaps teaching music. Emily's early writing (Colonial Pen-scratchings) was 'somewhat roughly handled by the critics' (Observer, 3 Oct, 1896) and she wrote little after that. She suffered ill health for about twenty years of her life, and died of cancer. She was buried in the West Terrace Cemetery with her father and (later) her sister Matilda.