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. She wrote several literary works and soon developed a reputation as a very capable communicator. She became active in promoting women's rights.
In 1866 a feminist group called the Société pour la Revendication du Droit des Femmes began to meet at the house of André Léo. Members included Paule Minck, Louise Michel, Eliska Vincent, Élie Reclus and his wife Néomie, Mme Jules Simon and Caroline de Barrau. Maria Deraismes was persuaded to participate.
Because of the broad range of opinions, the group decided to focus on the subject of improving girls' education. In 1870 Deraismes founded L'Association pour le droit des femmes with Léon Richer. She helped fund Richer's paper Le Droit des femmes.
Following the ouster of Napoleon III, Deraismes 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's work brought her recognition in Great Britain and she became an influence upon American activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who met her in Paris in 1882.
Maria Deraismes was initiated into Freemasonry on 14 January 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 allowed both men and women as members. From this co-masonic Lodge developed the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise "Le Droit Humain", which grew into the International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain.
On her death in 1894, Deraismes was interred in the Montmartre Cemetery. Her complete writings were published in 1895. Much information on her work can be found at the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand in Paris.
- Bidelman, Patrick Kay (Summer 1976). "The Politics of French Feminism: Léon Richer and the Ligue Française pour le Droit des Femmes, 1882-1891". Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques. Berghahn Books. 3 (1). JSTOR 41298677.
- McMillan, James F. (2002-01-08). France and Women, 1789-1914: Gender, Society and Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-58957-9. Retrieved 2014-10-23.
- "MARIA DESRAISMES". Droit Humain. Archived from the original on 2015-07-29. Retrieved 2014-10-23.