Emilia Francis Strong, the daughter of Henry and Emily Weedon Strong, was called by her middle name, with its masculine spelling, during her childhood and youth. She was raised in Iffley, near Oxford, and attended the South Kensington Art School in London in her late teens. She married Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1861; she was then known as Francis Pattison, Mrs. Mark Pattison, or, in some of her publications, as E. F. S. Pattison. After Mark Pattison's death in 1884, she married Sir Charles Dilke, and was subsequently known as Lady Dilke or Emilia Dilke. Both of her marriages were topics of some public discussion.
She became a contributor to the Saturday Review in 1864 and subsequently was for many years fine-art critic of the Academy and from 1873 its art editor, and she published in numerous other journals in Britain and France. In addition to numerous signed and unsigned essays, and her major works of art history, she wrote essays on French politics and on women's trade unionism and women's work. She also published two volumes of supernatural short stories (a third part-volume appeared posthumously). She was involved with the Women's Protective and Provident League, later the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL), from near its inception in 1874 and she served as President of the WTUL for many years until her death. Her niece, Gertrude Tuckwell (daughter of her sister Rosa and brother-in-law the Reverend William Tuckwell) worked with her closely in her feminist and trade unionist activities.
In addition to numerous articles in periodicals, she published, under the surname Pattison:
Under the surname Dilke, she published the following books: