Hamilton is born to Charles Hamilton (d.1759), a Scottish merchant, and his wife Katherine Mackay (d.1767). She lives most of her life in Scotland, moving there in 1762 to live with a Mrs. Marshall, her paternal aunt, near Stirling and spending much of her later life in Edinburgh.
Hamilton’s first literary efforts are directed in supporting her brother Charles in his orientalist and linguistic studies. After his death in 1792 she continues to publish orientalist scholarship, as well as historical, educationalist and theoretical works. She writes The Cottagers of Glenburnie (1808), a tale which has much popularity in the day, and perhaps has some effect in the improvement of certain aspects of humble domestic life in Scotland. She also writes the anti-Jacobin novel Memoirs of Modern Philosophers (1800), and the satirical Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah in 1796, a work in the tradition of Montesquieu and Oliver Goldsmith. Her most important pedagogical works are Letters on Education (1801), Letters on the Elementary Principles of Education (1801), Letters addressed to the Daughter of a Nobleman, on the Formation of Religious and Moral Principle (1806), and Hints addressed to the Patrons and Directors of Schools (1815).
(Pictured: Portrait of Elizabeth Hamilton, 1812, by Sir Henry Raeburn)