Dorothy Dodds was born in Missoula, Montana, and grew up in California. She attended Whittier College before transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles. After graduation, she traveled in France and then married Howard Baker, a poet, in 1930.
She taught French and Spanish in a private school in Oakland, California but then went back to UCLA to earn her master's degree in French in 1934. In 1938, she published her first novel, Young Man with a Horn, loosely based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke. It was adapted into a successful film in 1950. The novel was a hit and Dorothy Dodds Baker won a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Subsequent books included Trio (1943) Our Gifted Son (1948), and Cassandra at the Wedding (1962), which she said was based on her own two daughters.
In 1967, she co-wrote the script of "The Ninth Day" for television's Playhouse 90. She died of cancer at the age of 61.