Elizabeth Corbett, the poet, short-story writer, novelist and author, was born in Aurora, Illinois. She grew up in a house on the property of the National Soldiers’ Home, her father’s place of employment, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the chief financial officer for the home. In 1941, she wrote Out at the Soldiers’ Home, a memoir written more in the style of a novel. In it, she describes her father’s work as a “complicated bookkeeping system which was such an extraordinary mixture of expert accounting and simple red tape.”
Corbett enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where she was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta’s second chapter. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa. This Elizabeth Corbett was a suffragist, too.
After graduation, she served as Press Chairman of the Milwaukee Country Woman’s Suffrage Association. Her mother was Corresponding Secretary. In 1912 she spent July on a suffrage trip through the northern part of the state. She served on the Vocational Opportunities Committee and the Education Committee of the Milwaukee Branch of the National Association of Collegiate Alumnae (later known as AAUW).
Corbett served Alpha Gamma Delta in a number of ways, including being part of its National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) delegation. She chaired the committee to select a book plate for the organization. An article in the July 1912 To Dragma of Alpha Omicron Pi discussed the NPC organizations’ positions on fraternity examinations. Alpha Gam believed “fraternity examinations are necessary in order to have well-informed fraternity women who take an intelligent interest in fraternity questions.” Corbett added, “Personally, I believe most heartily in Pan-Hellenic questions, which help to spread knowledge of itself and its possibilities and which emphasize the Pan-Hellenic idea in concerted and appreciable form.”
At the 1913 NPC meeting, two Elizabeth Corbetts, one from the Alpha Gam delegation and the other from the Kappa Delta delegation, had a namesake “hobnob.”
In 1919, the Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly included information about Corbett’s new book The Vanished Helga, “All Beta girls should prize this copy of her work and wish her continued success.” A 1922 issue of the Quarterly noted that Corbett “a writer, public speaker, newspaper woman and novelist is listed in Who’s Who.”
After her father died in 1927, Corbett and her mother moved to New York City. In her later years, at least two of her poems appeared in the Quarterly. The Winter 1960 issue included My Testimony. The following summer, Ripe for Demolition debuted. It also appeared in the November 1966 issue of Fraternity Month.
Corbett wrote at least one story which included a sorority woman, 1969’s The Three Lives of Sharon Spence.
When Corbett died in 1981 at the age of 93, this appeared in the press: For more than 50 years Miss Corbett wrote a succession of historical or period novels that were consistently popular, particularly among women. Reviewers often termed her nostalgic works ”entertaining” and ”friendly” without being ”significant.”
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