Lala was born on 27 January 1872 in Rockhampton. She first recognition as a writer came in her late twenties, when she was living on the Isle of Wright with her husband and two sons. Lala had varied skills and interest, and was known within the United Kingdom as a writer, lecturer, musician and long distance swimmer. Travelling frequently to London she became an active member of England's expatriate writing community. Her own writing continued to be inspired by the Queensland landscape and the bush which she 'loved so well.' Lala edited a volume of writing by Australian expatriate authors in 1899. The publication of her own volume of poetry, A Twilight Teaching, in 1898, saw the London Observer label Lala as 'the poet of Australia.' Before returning to Australia Lala served as Queensland President of the International Congress of Women and was a fellow of the Anthropological Society of London.
From 1901 until 1906 Lala lived in regional North Queensland and in Brisbane, contributing to numerous newspapers and periodicals. She later moved to Sydney, supporting herself temporarily as a housekeeper before purchasing the Theatre Magazine, which she edited until 1918.
Both of Lala's sons enlisted in the First World War, and Lala's poetry during the war years is unusually critical of the sacrifice Australia's young men were called on to make. She challenged the theme, popular in patriotic poetry, that masculinity and militarism were intertwined. She opposed conscription and praised men who resisted the pressure to enlist. She challenged Prime Minister Bill Hughes on conscription at a public meeting and later tried to recruit Henry Lawson to her cause. 'Why did they fight, and why did the die?', she questions in one of the poems published in the 1918 volume Earth Spiritual. The book showed Lala to be 'a woman of intense human feeling,' noted The Daily Mail.
Writing after Lala's death in 1929, a friend noted that she had 'experienced the pangs as well as the joys of living'. Lala's writing was sometimes radical and unorthodox; she was strongly anti-war and interested in the female experience. At the end of her life she suffered from a mental or emotional illness, and was hospitalised from 1923 until her death from heart disease.
John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland