Elisabeth Gilman was born in New Haven, Connecticut, December 25, 1867. She was the younger daughter of Daniel Coit and Mary (Ketcham) Gilman. Her father was a college professor and the first president of The Johns Hopkins University. Elisabeth's mother died in 1869, and she and her sister Alice were cared for by Daniel's sister, Louise. Elisabeth came to Baltimore to live in 1876 when Daniel C. Gilman was inaugurated president of The Johns Hopkins University. She was educated at home by governesses and later went to boarding school at Springside, Philadelphia. She received her B.S. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1921.
In 1883, Elisabeth traveled with her father to Europe. She and her sister, Alice, spent an extended period of time, 1889- 1890, touring Europe and some areas of the Middle East. During both of these trips, Elisabeth accompanied her father as he inspected social conditions in East London.
After the death of her parents, Elisabeth attempted to carry on a family tradition of social life and welfare work. In 1916, Elisabeth attended a church institute near Boston where Vida Scudder lectured on the Socialist point of view. Later that summer, Elisabeth attended a conference of the League for Industrial Democracy at Sherwood Forest, Maryland where she listened to speakers John Spargo, Harry Laidler, and Mercer Johnston. At this time, Elisabeth decided that she was by conviction, a Socialist.
During World War I, Elisabeth volunteered for service with the YMCA in France, 1917-1919. She worked as a secretary as well as doing canteen work and leave area work. Upon her return to the United States, she worked on the Joint Amnesty Committee for political prisoners and was organizer and treasurer of the West Virginia Miners Relief Committee.
During the 1920s, Elisabeth continued to support, both personally and financially, many progressive activities and associations. She joined the Socialist Party around 1924. She was the unanimous choice of the Socialist Party as candidate for governor of Maryland in 1930. Shortly after accepting the nomination, she left on a fact-finding trip to Russia and for talks with other Socialists in Europe. She traveled with a party of twelve under the direction of Harry Laidler of the League for Industrial Democracy. She returned to the United States and began a rigorous agenda of campaign appearances which were well-covered by the press. Although she was unsuccessful in the governor's race, she ran for mayor of Baltimore in 1935 and for the Senate in 1938.
Miss Gilman continued her efforts in the interests of social justice and did not allow her position in society to compromise her political beliefs. As events in Spain escalated in 1938 and another world war appeared imminent, Miss Gilman adopted the pacifist position and argued for non-intervention by the United States.
Elisabeth Gilman died in 1950.