After drama school she went to Kazan, aged 18. He was controller of the Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod railroads, but was also involved in theatre. The couple had two children, Yuri (1888–1955) and Yekaterina (born 1894).
Yuri went on to become a film director
After Zhelyabuzhsky received a new post, the family moved to Tiflis, where she had success as an actress. They next moved to Moscow, where Andreyeva worked with Konstantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre.
She made her Moscow debut on December 15, 1894. She enjoyed great success.
Andreyeva took an interest in Marxist literature and she secretly joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
In 1902, she decided to leave acting. In 1900, she met Maxim Gorky in Sevastopol the first time. In 1903 she became his common law wife.
Gorky and Andreyeva left Russia in 1906 and travelled around the United States, and then settled in Capri, Italy.
Already by 1914, she was active in attempts to promote classical theatre to the masses. Only after the October Revolution did these endeavours bear fruits.
Between 1918 and 1921, she was Commissar of Theaters and Public Shows in Petrograd. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Bolshoi Drama Theater, which opened in 1919.
In January that year, Anatoly Lunacharsky nominated her as his deputy in his role of head of art section of the Narkompros in Petrograd.
The Petrograd Soviet refused to confirm her nomination, but Vladimir Lenin intervened in her favour and the appointment went ahead. In 1920, Lunacharsky offered her the position of head of TEO, the theatre department of Narkompros, in Moscow, but she refused. In 1921 she travelled abroad selling antiques and works of art, and from 1922 she represented the Commissariat of External Trade in relation to the film industry, spending some time with the Soviet trade delegation in Berlin.
During this period she separated from Gorky.
Between 1931 and 1948, she held the post of Director of the House of Scientists in Moscow.