Born in Paris, Maria Deraismes grew up in Pontoise in the city's northwest outskirts. From a prosperous middle-class family, she was well educated and raised in a literary environment that led to her authoring several literary works but soon developed a reputation as a very capable communicator. She became active in promoting women's rights and, in 1866, joined the Société de la revendication des droits de la femme, a feminist organization advancing the cause of education for women. In 1869, she founded L'Association pour le droit des femmes with Leon Richer.
Following the ouster of Napoleon III, she understood the new politics of the day meant a more moderate approach under the Third Republic in order for feminism to survive and not be marginalized by the new breed of male power brokers emerging at the time. Deraismes' work brought her recognition in Great Britain and an influence upon American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton who met her in Paris in 1882.
Maria Deraismes was initiated into Freemasonry on January 14, 1882, when it was still rare for a woman to be admitted into that Fraternity. She joined "Les Libres Penseurs" Lodge, of Pecq, a small village to the west of Paris. A year later, she and Georges Martin organized a Masonic lodge that allow both men and women as members. Out of this co-masonic Lodge came the birth of the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise "Le Droit Humain", which grew into the International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain.
On her death in 1894, Maria Deraismes was interred in the Montmartre Cemetery. Her complete writings were published in 1895 and much information on her work can be found at the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand in Paris.