Dorothy Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, June 25, 1923. The daughter of a clergyman, she was reared in a parsonage. Early in her life, she felt a need to express herself in writing, creating a six-page magazine that she circulated among parishioners. Educated as an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Gilman was awarded the William Emlen Cresson European Scholarship in 1944. During that period, however, she audited writing classes at the University of Pennsylvania whenever time permitted, and her love of writing was nurtured.
In 1944 Gilman married Edgar A. Butters, Jr., and became the mother of two sons. During the twenty-odd years of her marriage, she taught as an instructor in drawing at the Samuel Fleischer Art Memorial for a period but enjoyed her greatest success as a writer of juvenile fiction that examined a wide array of subjects. In 1965 she was divorced, and the next year she began writing novels for an adult audience. When her younger son left for college, she purchased an old house and acreage in Nova Scotia and embarked on a new kind of life, pursuing her own serenity and self-knowledge. Rewarding and refreshing, this experience became the subject of an autobiography in 1978. She has continued writing her Pollifax series and a newer series featuring the character Countess Karitska first introduced in The Clairvoyant Countess (1975).