Florence McGillivray was born in 1864. She studied at the Ontario School of Art under William Cruikshank, she also took private lessons from J.W.L. Foster, L.R. O'Brien and J.M. McGillivray Knowles.
Following her studies McGillivray became a teacher at the Ontario Ladies' College, in Whitby. She occasionally worked as a critic at Pickering College, Ontario.
In 1881, McGillivary began traveling, exploring parts of Canada and the British West Indies. She settled in France in 1913 for some time, where she studied with Lucien Simon and Menard. During this time one of her works were exhibited at the Salon des Beaux Arts, she was also elected president of the International Art Union.
In 1917 McGillivary returned to Toronto, shortly after moving to Ottawa. However, she never really settled. mcGillivary continued to travel frequently, sketching along the way, she explored the Coasts of Canada, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Bahama Islands in the West Indies, Alaska, and the eastern United States.
Throughout her career she has exhibited at Malloney's in Toronto, Continental Galleries, Montréal, and at her Frank Street Studio in Ottawa, among others.
She was also a member of the Ontario Society of Artists, the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York, the Royal Canadian Academy and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.
Her work can be found in the colelctions at The National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, among others.
She died in 1938.