Wilhelmine Schröder was born in Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of an actress and a singer. She receiving theater training from her parents and began appearing on stage as a child. At age 17, she made a successful opera debut as Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte). She became the leading female German singer of her era for her powerful dramatic ability combined with her voice. Carl Maria von Weber chose her for the role of Agathe in his 1821 opera Der Freischütz, and she sang Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio in Vienna that same year. In 1823, she married Karl Devrient, an actor, becoming known as Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, but separated from him five years later. She made her first Paris appearance in 1830, and sang in London in 1832. Wagner created three roles for her: Adriano in Rienzi (1842), Senta in The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer, 1843), and Venus in Tannhäuser (1845). She also performed in works by Rossini, Bellini, and Gluck. She was a lifelong friend of Clara Schumann, beginning in 1832, when they both performed in Paris. She sang her last opera role in 1847 but continued to give concerts. She participated in the Revolution of 1848 and the May Uprising in Dresden and was imprisoned for it. The erotic memoirs attributed to her were probably not her work.