She was born in Boston, the daughter of Nathaniel Frothingham. She studied German literature, and was well known for her translations into English of Lessing's Nathan der Weise (Kuno Fischer's edition; New York, 1868), Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea (1870), Berthold Auerbach's Edelweiss (1871), Lessing's Laokoon (1874) and Franz Grillparzer's Sappho (1876).
- Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1906). . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Works by Ellen Frothingham at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Ellen Frothingham at Internet Archive