Emilia Francis Strong was born to a well-to-do and religious banker and his wife. She was known in her youth by her masculine-sounding middle name. She was raised in Iffley, near Oxford, and educated by governesses before going to London at age 18 to study at the South Kensington School of Art. Among her literary and artistic circle were George Eliot and Edward Burne-Jones. In 1861, she married Mark Pattison, rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, 27 years her senior. She began writing Arthurian legend-style stories, published under the names Francis Pattison, Mrs. Mark Pattison, or E.F.S. Pattison. She supported the right to vote and higher education for women. In 1875, she renewed her acquaintance with Sir Charles Dilke, a member of the radical wing of the Liberal Party, who had been an art student with her. The couple were married after Pattison's death in 1884, and she was subsequently known as Lady Dilke or Emilia Dilke. She wrote art criticism for British and French publications such as The Academy, and in 1873 became its longtime art editor. She was a lifelong friend of art historian Eugène Müntz, director of the Bibliothèque de l'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She wrote books on art history such as Art in the Modern State (1888), essays on French politics and on women's trade unionism, and two volumes of short stories. She was a member of the Women's Trade Union League from its founding, and served as its president for many years. Gertrude M. Tuckwell, her niece, worked as her secretary and was involved with her in feminist and trade union activities.