The couple had eight children, of whom most died young. The couple arrived to the later Cape Town in South Africa in 1652. The first period, they lived in a tent.
Maria acted as the hostess to guests, is said to have entertained with a clavicord, and was described as diplomatically gifted in the company of foreigners.
She was from 1658 active as a money lender to the colonists, and used a slave girl as an interpreter to communicate with the native population. She died in Malacca, Malaysia, on 2 November 1664, aged 35, from undisclosed causes.
She has been referred to as the ancestral mother of the white Afrikaners. A statue of her by Dirk Wolbers was erected in Cape Town in 1952 on the three hundredth anniversary of their arrival in the Cape.
The South African Navy submarine, the SAS Maria van Riebeeck, was named in her memory.