Maria Gabriela Korwin-Piotrowska was born into a family of Polish gentry in what is now Ukraine, and was educated in a convent at Lvov. Her mother had been a ballerina, and Gabriela gave up a privileged existence to pursue an acting career in Poland and France; however, her efforts met with only minimal success. She made her publishing debut with a short story in 1881. She wrote popular novels and established her own drama school in Krakow as well as a touring troupe.
She used several pseudonyms for her writing, including Gabriela Zapolska. She's best remembered for her plays, many of which mocked the bourgeoisie for its hypocrisy and shallowness.