She was born in Galway, Ireland, the daughter of Alexander Anderson, president of Queens College Galway. Ms Anderson was educated privately and won the Browne Scholarship in 1909 at QCG, where she received a B.A. in 1911. She displayed a strong interest in the suffragette movement in Galway. After further study in Berlin and Marburg, she taught for two years at Queen's College, Barbados. She then returned in 1917 to Galway where she was appointed the first professor of German at University College Galway.
Anderson resigned from her position in 1920. She moved to London and immediately joined the Foreign Office. In 1923 she published a translation of Benedetto Croce's book on Goethe. Between 1940 and 1943 she was seconded to the War office; she later received the OBE for Intelligence resulting from work she carried out in the Middle East. She retired from the foreign office in 1951. Anderson published the Letters of Mozart and his family, which she herself edited and translated. Her Letters of Beethoven were published in 1961. The Federal Republic of Germany awarded her the Order Of Merit first class for her work on Beethoven.
She died at Hampstead, London in October 1962.
- Obituary, The Times, Monday, Oct 29, 1962; pg. 12; Issue 55534; col F
- On the "Western Outpost":Local Government and Women's Suffrage in County Galway, 1898-1918, Mary Clancy, pp. 557–587, in "Galway:History and Society", 1996
- Translated Penguin Book - at Penguin First Editions reference site of early first edition Penguin Books.
- "Ceremony to Mark Naming of Emily Anderson Concert Hall at NUI Galway". NUI Galway News. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.