Caroline Matilda Stansbury Kirkland (1801–1865) was a writer of sketches of frontier life, essayist, editor, educator. She is known primarily for the works that illuminate a distinct phase of the American Westering movement. Caroline M. Kirkland established a reputation as an energetic and opinionated exponent of the woman's view of an era dominated by male writers.
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.
Caroline Kirkland was educated in Quaker schools for over ten years, exposing her to the social philosophies of the Quakers.
Kirkland received an education that included Latin, French, and other languages, and that encouraged her abilities of expression and her sense of self-sufficiency.
Kirkland's students remembered her as a person who taught easily and sympathetically, and who was dedicated to excellence.
When the Kirklands arrived in Michigan she was one of the best educated women in the whole country. Her wide knowledge from learning, reading, and experience caused her to observe and compare all in the new wild world that she saw. She kept her active mind satisfied by pondering the events and the personalities of the frontier and she continued her own personal development by recording in written sketches real life episodes. These she sent in letters to her friends in the city, and, we can imagine, they encouraged her to collect them into a book.
a collection of domestic sketches
Western Clearings (1845)
a collection of stories and poetry
Forest Life (1842)
Personal Memoirs of Washington (1856)
A New Home--Who'll Follow? Or, Glimpses of Western Life (1839)