Sally Salminen was born in the town of Vargata on Åland. After completing basic schooling, she worked in various jobs, including as a maid in Stockholm, did a correspondence course, and dreamed of becoming an author. In 1930, she travelled to New York and found work as a domestic help. After marrying the Danish artist Johannes Dührkop in 1940, she settled in Denmark. Her motifs stem from her familiar world of the poor communities on Åland and the lives of emigrants.
She made her debut in 1936 with her depiction of an ordinary life, Katrina (Eng. tr. Katrina), which won first prize in a novel competition and became an international success. It overshadowed all her subsequent works, which encompassed novels, travel accounts, and autobiographies, including her Åland novels Den långa våren, 1939, På lös sand, 1941, Lars Laurila, 1943, and Nya Land, 1945; the short story collection Barndomens land, 1948; and novels such as Små världar, 1949, Klyftan och stjärnan, 1951, Prins Efflam (1953; Eng. tr. The Prince from the Sea), Spår på jorden, 1961, and Vid havet, 1963.
Sally Salminen's later works, which are autobiographical, include the travel books Jerusalem, 1970, På färder i Israel, 1971, and her memoirs Upptäcktsresan, 1966, and Min amerikanska saga, 1968, I Danmark, 1972, and Världen öppnar sig, 1974. Many of Sally Salminen's books were translated into various languages. Her memoirs Sallys saga were published in 1968.