So We All Can Be Heard
by Marlene Cook, Historian
Even though Caroline Fairfield Corbin started out in sympathy with the women's
suffrage movement and helped found IWPA in 1885 along with other suffragettes,
20 years later she changed her mind and began writing anti-suffragette articles
and founded an organization to oppose it.
In 1867 Corbin had written Rebecca, or A Woman's Secret, a publication that supported women's rights and even included a dedication to John Stuart Mill expressing her admiration and gratitude for his noble efforts on behalf of Enfranchisement of Women. But in her fourth book, Letters From a Chimney Corner: a Plea for Pure Homes and Secure Relations Between Men and Women, published in 1886, she wrote: "Until society is cleansed of the moral foulness which infects it and which . . . lies beyond the reach of civil law, women have no call to go forth into the wider fields claiming to be therein the rightful and natural purifies."
She agreed that the women's movement made women stronger, more self-respecting, gave them a broader outlook on world affairs and larger opportunities of measuring their capabilities, but she believed the effects were detrimental because they caused women to disintegrate their roles as wives and mothers, "the foundation of what is highest and purist."
In a letter to Frances E. Willard, then president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and an IWPA founder, she explained that although she once favored woman's suffrage as a means to open or widen doors for women, she became concerned that the false ideals were hurting women and promoting a course of selfish individualism, comparing it to socialism.
In 1897, Corbin founded the Illinois Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women (IAIESW) and became its president arguing that women's role in the home did not allow them time to act as informed voters. She wrote numerous bulletins that continued until 1913, the year Illinois legislators granted women limited suffrage. By 1914, admitting defeat, the IAIESW went out of existence.
Born, Nov. 9, 1835 in Woodstock, Conn., Caroline Fairfield was the fifth of eight children and the only daughter to survive to adulthood. "Carrie" as she was known, grew up with three brothers. The family later moved to New York where she attended Brooklyn Female Academy (now Packer Institute) where she studied trigonometry, astronomy, philosophy, English literature, theology, physics, chemistry and logic. She graduated in 1852 and wrote more than 42 stories that were published in a Boston weekly newspaper.
During a visit to an aunt in Alton, Ill., Fairfield met Calvin Rich Corbin, a merchant's agent. They married in 1861 and she gave birth to six children--two who died early. After her last son was born, when she was 40 years old, she wrote children's books.
Corbin and her youngest son and a niece moved in 1915 to Harbor Springs, Mich., to a home her husband had built. On March 27, 1918, Corbin died in Petosky Hospital at age 82 and is buried in Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago's north side.
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