Caroline Elizabeth Corbin was born 9 November 1835 in Pomfret, Connecticut to Hannah Dana (Chandler) and Jason William Fairfield. She married Calvin Rich Corbin 4 July 1861 near Promfret, Connecticut and moved to Chicago, Illinois shortly afterwards. Her husband was an importer and grocer in Chicago. Corbin gave birth to five children, all born in Chicago: Franklin Nichols Corbin (1862-1958), Grace Corbin (1862-1863), Caroline (Danna) F Corbin (1867-1870) John Corbin (1870-1959) and Laurance Paul Corbin (1876-1958). She lived in Chicago for most of her life, however she moved north to Evanston for the period 1870 – 1873.
Caroline Corbin was raised a Trinitarian Christian in New England in a well known, upper class family. She studied at the Brooklyn Female Academy (renamed in 1854 as the Packer Collegiate Institute of Brooklyn and Long Island ) and graduated in 1852. She worked as a teacher in Sewickley, Pennsylvania for two years. In her early career, Corbin advocated woman’s suffrage and was among the first members of the Evanston Woman’s Christian Temperance Union when it was still known as the Women’s Temperance Alliance.
Although research could not reveal an exact reason why, sometime after meeting with Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor in 1886 and delving deeply into Socialism as a political institution, Corbin’s opinion on woman’s suffrage changed. Her support for obtaining the right to vote strongly became a fight against it. She was concerned the good moral order of a Christian society would be destroyed by Socialism and that if women were awarded the vote, family and society would unravel. More can be found in this pamphlet Corbin wrote called “One Woman’s Experience with Emancipation.”
Corbin continued to campaign for temperance, lecturing and holding classes at training sessions, specifically the 10th Anniversary of the Lake Bluff Convocation over several days of July 1887. However, she started publishing anti-suffrage material in the form of pamphlets and newspaper articles as early as 1888 and along with others, formed a loose association called the Women Remonstrant of the State of Illinois. Later in 1897, the group renamed itself, becoming the Illinois Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women.
She feverishly wrote letters to the Senate and House of Representative of the State of Illinois set against Catharine Waugh McCulloch’s bill to extend suffrage to Illinois women and sent editorial letters to the Chicago Tribune in response to any pro-suffrage articles they ran.
Corbin authored many books centered around social reform, her most notable works being: One Woman’s Experience of Emancipation, The Position of Women in the Socialistic Utopia, Satan in Society and Rebecca; or, A Woman’s Secret.
Caroline Fairfield Corbin died in Petoskey, Michigan 27 March 1918 just two years prior to the successful passage of the 19th Amendment.
By Julia Flynn and Lori Osborne, Evanston History Center, Evanston, Illinois.
Evanston History Center Archives – http://evanstonhistorycenter.org
Ahead of Their Time by Mark Sorensen, Northern Illinois University
History of Northwestern University and Evanston by Robert Dickinson Sheppard – www.books.google.com
The Reason Volume II Number VI – A Journal of Prohibition – www.books.google.com
Directory of the Chapters, Officers and Members – Daughters of the American Revolution 1898 – www.books.google.com
University of Pennsylvania – A Celebration of Women Writers
Heritage Quest Online – https://www.ancestryheritagequest.com
Find a Grave – https://www.findagrave.com
The Corbin Family Blog – https://corbinfamilyblog.wordpress.com
The Brooklyn Historical Society http://brooklynhistory.org/library/packer/story/from-brooklyn-female-academy-to-packer-collegiate-institute/