Florence McGillivray was born in Whitby, Ontario. She studied at the Ontario School of Art under William Cruikshank and at the studios of J.W.L. Forster, L.R. O’Brien, and J.M. McGillivray Knowles. She had been influenced by art nouveau and in 1913 went to study under Lucien Simon in Paris continuing to paint in England before moving back to Toronto. She taught at the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby. McGillivray's work is in various prominent collections, including in the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.