Born in New York City, the daughter of Michael and Melanie (Fisher) Deutsch, Babette Deutsch (1895-1982) matriculated from the Ethical Culture School and Barnard College, graduating in 1917 with a B.A. She published poems in magazines such as the North American Review and the New Republic while she was still a student at Barnard.
In 1921, Deutsch married Avrahm Yarmolinsky, chief of the Slavonic Division of The New York Public Library (1918–1955), also a writer and translator. They had two sons, Adam and Michael.
During the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s, Deutsch was teaching at Columbia University, where her students included poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 1946, she received an honorary D. Litt. from Columbia University.
She translated Pushkin's Eugene Onegin into English and also made some of the best English versions of Boris Pasternak's poems. Deutsch's own poems displayed what poet Marianne Moore called "her commanding stature as a poet."