Maria Michailova (also sometimes shown as "Michailowa") was born Maria Van Puterin in Kharkov. She began her vocal studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and continued them abroad in Paris and Milan. Michailova made her debut at the Maryinsky Theater in 1892 and was a featured performer with that company for more than two decades. In the early years of the 1900s, she toured Russia extensively and performed in Japan in 1907. Michailova had a fear of traveling over water that limited her ability to appear outside continental Europe. At one point, Oscar Hammerstein was so taken with her voice that he attempted to engage Michailova for his Manhattan Opera Company, but she would not travel to New York.
Maria Michailova was one of the most productive singers among recording pioneers. Beginning her career in 1901 with Gramophone and Typewriter, through 1914 Michailova made the astounding total of some 350 records for labels as diverse as Lyrophon, Columbia, Pathé, and HMV. About a half-dozen of these were released in the United States on Victor and were long-standing mainstays of their vocal catalog. Michailova made her farewell appearance in Leningrad in 1921.