Dorothy Martin was born in 1909 in St. Peters, Nova Scotia, and moved with her family to Regina, Saskatchewan in 1913. She studied teaching at Regina Normal School, receiving her diploma in 1927. From there, she taught at public schools in rural Saskatchewan and then in Regina. At the same time, she pursued her artistic aspirations. She studied art at the University of Regina with Augustus Kenderdine from 1938-39, and then again in 1961-1962 with Kenneth Lochhead.
Martin then combined her interests in art and teaching, studying art education at the Teacher's College in Regina (1962) and at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (1964). Two years later, she took classes in ceramics and primary education methods at the University of Regina, studying with Jack Sures. She served as an art consultant for Regina's Board of Education (1963-1969), and from 1969 to 1972 instructed children in clay classes at Regina's Hone-James studio, founded by artists Beth Hone and Ann James.