Doris Stevens was born in Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated from Oberlin College and worked as a teacher and social worker in Ohio and Michigan. She became a regional organizer with the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1913, after a march on Washington for votes for women, she joined with Alice Paul and others to form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CUWS). The following year, she became a full-time organizer and executive secretary for the CUWS, later known as the National Woman's Party (NWP). In 1917, she was arrested for picketing at the White House and served three days of her 60-day sentence before receiving a pardon from President Woodrow Wilson. She was arrested again in 1919 in the NWP demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, she spearheaded the NWP Women for Congress campaign and assisted female candidates for state office. In 1921, she married Dudley Field Malone, a lawyer who had represented her and other members of the CUWS in court. They lived in New York City and were part of a group of artists and radicals that included Theodore Dreiser, Eugene O'Neill, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Louise Bryant, and Dorothy Day.
She and Malone divorced in 1923 and she later re-married to Jonathan E. Mitchell, a journalist for the New York World. She left the NWP in 1947 and began working with the Lucy Stone League and supporting the establishment of feminist studies as a legitimate academic field in American universities. She published a memoir of her women's rights activism, Jailed for Freedom, in 1920.