Elderton attended Bedford College (London) where she become involved in the eugenics movement. She left without completing her studies in 1890, on the death of her father, and became a school teacher. In 1905 she resigned her teaching post to become Galton's assistant. Subsequently she became Galton Scholar and Fellow and Assistant Professor at University College London. She retired in 1933.
Elderton produced many reports, the most controversial of which argued that predisposition to alcoholism was largely inherited. With her brother the actuaryWilliam Palin Elderton she wrote a Primer of Statistics. The book has a preface by Galton.
Ethel M. Elderton (1910) A first study of the influence of parental alcoholism on the physique and ability of the offspring, University of London. Francis Galton laboratory for national eugenics. Eugenics laboratory memoirs; v.X.
W. Palin Elderton and Ethel M. Elderton (1909) Primer of Statistics. London: A&C Black Ltd.