Elizabeth Elstob was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the youngest of eight children in a comfortable merchant family. Her parents died while she was a child and her uncle became her guardian. She became proficient in eight languages and was recognized as a pioneer in the newly opened field of Old English or Anglo-Saxon studies. She was part of the intellectual and literary circles that included Mary Astell, who helped her find subscribers for her book Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue (1715), the first such work written in English. Elizabeth lived in Oxford and in London with her older brother, the scholar and clergyman William Elstob until his death in 1715. Her other works included An Essay upon Glory (1708), translated from the French of Mademoiselle de Scudéry. After her brother's death, Elizabeth tried and failed to make a living running a school. She was saved from poverty through the intervention of several society ladies. In 1738, she obtained the post of governess to the children of the Duchess of Portland. She is recognized today as one of the true female scholars of the 18th century.