Maria Baldwin was born in Cambridge in 1856, graduated from its public schools in 1874, and received a degree from the Cambridge Teachers' Training School the following year.
Under pressure from the local African-American community, the Cambridge school administration offered her a teaching position in 1881. She was assigned to the Agassiz School, near Harvard University, and rose to become its master in 1916.
At that time she was the first black woman in New England to hold such a high educational position, and was one of only two female masters in the Cambridge schools.
The Agassiz School had an almost entirely white student population, and all of its teachers were white. Baldwin moved into the northern half of the duplex at 194-196 Prospect Street in 1892, and lived there until her death in 1922.
Her home was a social center of local upper-class African-American social circles, including prominent civil rights activists such as William Monroe Trotter and Archibald Grimké.
The Baldwin House is a private home, and is not open to the public.
The northern half of the duplex was designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.