Born Matilda Twiss in Camberwell, London in the United Kingdom, she married an Australian serviceman, Jim Devine, during World War I. When Jim returned to Australia she followed him back to Australia on the bride ship Waimana, arriving in Sydney on 13 January 1920. Both Tilly and Jim Devine rapidly became prominent in the Sydney criminal milieu. Devine was famous for flamboyant acts of generosity, and also for her violent feud with rival madam Kate Leigh.
Peter Kenna wrote a play called The Slaughter of St Teresa’s Day (1973 Currency Press), based on Devine's life.