Caroline Kirkland was born in New York City in 1801, the oldest of eleven children of Samuel and Eliza Alexander Stansbury. Her mother was herself a poet and fiction writer, and Kirkland grew up in a secure middle-class home. She was able to attend a school headed by her aunt and then, by becoming a teacher there, to contribute substantially to her family's income. When her father died in 1822, she in fact became the most important family provider. At this time she moved her mother and siblings to Clinton, in upstate New York, where she was teaching and where she had already met her future husband, William Kirkland. They eventually had seven children, four of whom survived early childhood. They settled in Geneva, New York where they founded the Domestic school. In 1835 the Kirklands moved to the then frontier town of Detroit, Michigan and in 1837 they founded the village of Pinckney on land that William had purchased. In New York the Kirklands moved in high literary circles, with William becoming an editor of the New York Mirror and Caroline opening a girl's school while continuing to write for the major magazines of the day. William Kirkland's tragic death by drowning in 1846 left Caroline Kirkland even more dependent on her writing. She died of epilepsy on April 6, 1864.
Caroline Matilda Stansbury Kirkland also wrote under the pseudonyms Mrs. Mary Clavers and Aminadab Peering.