Emilie Monson Wilton was born probably in 1829 or 1830, the daughter of Colonel Wilton, a retired British army officer. The place of her birth is unknown, as is her mother's name. In 1848 probably in London she married Neill Malcolm, barrister of the Inner Temple. The unexpected loss of inherited income persuaded Neill Malcolm that emigration might solve their financial problems. On 4 October 1850 the Malcolms and their infant daughter sailed on the Victory, arriving in Auckland, New Zealand, on 1 February 1851.
After two farming ventures ended in failure, they returned to Auckland with their small capital depleted and a family of four young daughters. They became acquainted with Robert Barstow, a well-educated settler, who had established a home and cattle ranch at Rosalie Bay, Great Barrier Island. Barstow offered them a cottage in return for Neill Malcolm's assistance on the estate. The Malcolms went to live there in 1858. The beauty of forest and beach made an instant appeal to Emilie's artistic nature.
Three months later Barstow was appointed magistrate at Russell and departed with his family. The Malcolms were left to manage a run-down property with dilapidated buildings, broken fences and cattle running wild. In these isolated conditions Emilie bore nine more children, two dying in infancy. She set out a daily routine of lessons, domestic tasks and outdoor activities as well as teaching the children drawing, singing and dancing. She taught herself to remake clothes, garden and cope with childbirth, death, illness and accidents.
In spite of repeated petitions by the Malcolms to the government to survey and grant them title to their land, only a preliminary survey was begun and never completed. As a result, no official record of the farm appeared on the survey charts and when, in 1867, the government gave 40-acre grants to new settlers in the Tryphena area, the Malcolm property was included in the allotment. The first intimation the family had of the situation was when the claimants arrived by schooner. Angry scenes followed, many of the Malcolms' domestic cattle were shot and trees were felled indiscriminately. Eventually, on payment of £56 they received 80 acres which included their homestead. Their previous petitions and long residence were ignored.
Emilie Malcolm was so embittered that she cut herself off from her neighbours and remained estranged from her talented daughter Fanny, an artist, who had run away to marry Alfred Osborne, the son of one of the claimants.
The Malcolms lived on the farm at Rosalie Bay until 1897, when they moved to a cottage on the mainland at Waiwera. Neill Malcolm died there on 7 January 1898. Emilie Malcolm never gave up hope that her grievances would be righted. In 1904 she wrote to Edward Moss, MHR, asking for his sympathy and support for her cause. She included with the letter My own story, a pamphlet based on her diaries and written and published in her old age. She died at her daughter's home in Avondale, Auckland, on 10 June 1905.