She was the sister of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as William Michael Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti, who dedicated her 1862 poem Goblin Market to Maria. She was the author of The Shadow of Dante: Being an essay towards studying himself, his world, and his pilgrimage. (published 1871). She also acted as a governess during the years of family hardship brought on by her father"s failing health and tutored a young Lucy Madox Brown, her future sister-in-law.
At the age of 46, Maria joined the Society of All Saints, an Anglican order for women and Lucy Madox Brown wanted to paint her in her habit.
She made an English translation of the Monastic Diurnal for her order, The Day Hours and Other Offices as Used by the Sisters of All Saints, which was used by her order until 1922. Maria died of ovarian cancer in 1876, despite drawn-out treatments to try to drain the tumour.
She was buried in the convent plot at Brompton Cemetery.