Dorothy Lawrence was born in Hendon in 1896. Abandoned by her mother, she was adopted by a guardian of the Church of England.
Lawrence had a strong desire to become a journalist and she achieved some success with a few articles published in The Times. She was living in Paris when war was declared in 1914. Lawrence contacted several British newspapers offering to work as a war correspondent in France. All the editors refused to employ a woman to do what they considered to be very dangerous work.
Lawrence returned to England and in 1915 disguised herself as a man and joined the British Army. Using the name Denis Smith, she served for ten days in the British Expeditionary Force Tunneling Company on the Western Front before her true identity was discovered. The authorities detained her in a French convent until she agreed to swear an affidavit promising not to tell the public how she had fooled the army authorities.
On her return to England she settled in Canonbury, Islington. Lawrence published an account of her experiences, Sapper Dorothy Lawrence: The Only English Woman Soldier, in 1919.
Dorothy Lawrence died at Friern Hospital, Barnet, Middlesex, in 1964.