Caroline Gilman was born Caroline Howard in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1794. She received very little formal education but began writing at an early age. In 1819 she married Samuel Gilman, a Unitarian minister, and moved with him to Charleston, South Carolina.
Gilman wrote several poems during her youth and the early years of her marriage, but her literary career began in earnest after the death of her newborn sixth child, in 1831. She edited The Rose Bud, one of the nation’s first magazines for children, from 1832 to 1839; the publication, which she founded, was renamed Southern Rose in 1835 to reach a wider audience. She published three serialized novels for the journal, including Recollections of a Housekeeper (Harper & Brothers, 1834) and Recollections of a Southern Matron (Harper & Brothers, 1838). With these novels, Gilman hoped to illustrate the domestic similarities between the North and South as tension in the nation increased. She also edited the Lady’s Annual Register and Housewife’s Memorandum-Book from 1837 to 1839.
Gilman wrote several additional books, including The Poetry of Travelling in the United States (S. Colman, 1838), Oracles from the Poets (Wiley and Putnam, 1844), and A Gift Book of Stories and Poems for Children (C. S. Francis, 1850). She said of her career, “I find myself, then, at nearly sixty years of age, somewhat of a patriarch in the line of American female authors.” Her work often focuses on the domestic and portrays the family as a cornerstone of society.
She remained in the South during the American Civil War and participated actively in Confederate relief work in Greenville, South Carolina. After the war, she returned to Charleston, where she stayed until 1882. She died in Washington, D. C. on September 15, 1888.