She was born in Allegheny (now North Side of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. In 1880 she married Lorin F. Deland, Harvard football coach. They took in and supported unmarried mothers; it was at this period she began to write. Her poetry collection The Old Garden was published in 1886. Deland received a Litt.D. from Bates College in 1920.
She is known principally for the novel John Ward, Preacher (1888), and her 'Old Chester' books, based on her early memories of Maple Grove and Manchester, Pennsylvania.