Anderson was born as Ethel Emsley in Peckham, London on 9 April 1905. She was the daughter of Samuel Thomas Emsley and Elizabeth Lilian Packer. She had two older sisters, Lilian and Grace, and a younger sister, Mabel. She had several half-siblings from both her parents’ previous marriages: Frederick, Edith, Elsie, and Hilda from her father, Marmaduke and Montague Langford from her mother.
Anderson married her husband, Herbert Charles Anderson, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in 1927. They had one son, Robert, in 1937. By 1939, she was a housewife, while her husband was working as a bank cashier. Her half-brother Marmaduke Langford died in 1980 aged 95. Anderson was widowed in 1987 after her husband died aged 85.
Anderson died in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire on 4 December 2015 at the age of 110 years, 239 days.