Dorothy Stickney was born in Dickinson, North Dakota. Because she had eye troubles and difficulty reading, she focused on dancing and elocution. She loved going to the theater and after several eye surgeries, she was able to pursue a career as an actress. She attended the North Western Dramatic School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began acting in summer stock companies in the early 1920s. In 1927, she married producer-playwright Howard Lindsay. She made her Broadway debut in 1926 in The Squall and had a string of hits, frequently playing eccentric characters. Her best known role was "Vinnie" in Life with Father, written by her husband, who also co-starred. She also appeared in some films and television programs. She wrote poetry and published an autobiography, Openings and Closings, in 1979.