Nothing is known of Etta’s life and work after around 1900, save that she continued to live at the family home in Newport until her death, though it is known that she maintained an interest for some years in Newport Children’s Home. Moreover, none of her oils or watercolours can be traced, though sales of these in 1883 are recorded.

At the age of 18 Etta began exhibiting at the hugely popular Dundee Fine Art Exhibitions and continued to produce oils and watercolours for the next ten years. She had been a pupil at Dundee High School, where she was probably taught by William Gibb, and there were at that time very many opportunities for art study, notably the classes run by St Andrews-based Patti Jack in the Fine Art Department of University College, Dundee. Jack and Johnston were both interested in landscape and countryside subjects.

They also share the distinction of being the first women to teach at University College, Dundee, as Etta began assisting Patrick Geddes in the 1888-89 session. That same year she studied Anatomy for Artists in a course given by the anatomy professor Andrew Melville Paterson.

She had been one of the original intake of students in 1883 and studied for six years. Her many certificates and prizes are recorded in mathematics, biology, anatomy, physiology and chemistry – 4 prizes for this! In 1883 University College had splendid new purpose-built chemistry laboratories. Professor Thomas Carnelly was an inspirational teacher who encouraged his students towards original research and publication and Etta produced four papers while still a student – The antiseptic properties of metallic salts in relation to their chemical composition; Putrefaction; The effect of floor deafening on the sanitary condition of dwelling houses and The relation of physiological action to atomic weight – the last two being jointly written and the authors given as E Johnston and T Carnelly – i.e. Etta’s name given first.

She also trained as a botany demonstrator and helped teach practical botany both in Dundee and in Edinburgh, encouraging the production of botanical drawings for practical use in study. However women were not allowed to take a degree in Dundee until 1892 and there is no evidence that Etta ever did.

Her scientific work on floor deafening – then, in poorer areas, composed of midden material mixed with ashes – suggested a strong correlation between quality of deafening, air pollution and life expectancy. (The average age of death in the city in 1882 was 26 years, with the most affluent expecting to live 29 years longer than the poorest.)

She had joined Dundee Social Union in 1888, then the Sanitary Committee which campaigned for years to achieve better sanitation in Dundee houses. She also collected rents, helped with the girls’ club and ran jumble sales. She served on several other committees but her involvement ceased abruptly in 1900. Can any reader tell us more about her later life?