Madeleine Vinton was a daughter of Samuel Finlay Vinton, a member of Congress and leading figure in the Whig Party. She was educated at a boarding school in Philadelphia and at the Convent of the Visitation in Georgetown in Washington, DC. She learned to speak several languages, including French and Spanish. In 1846, she married Daniel Goddard, a lawyer from Ohio. He died five years later leaving his wife with two children. She began writing to earn a living and contributed many poems, essays, and short stories to the New York Tablet and other newspapers. Using the pseudonym "Corinne," she published a collection of her writings called Idealities (1859). In 1865, she remarried to Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren, a well-known naval officer and friend of President Lincoln. They had three more children, and became prominent members of Washington society. Mrs. Dahlgren translated various foreign language works into English, including Pius IX and France in 1849 and 1859 by Charles Forbes Rene de Tryon, comte de Montalembert (1861). She was a prolific novelist with titles such as The Lost Name (1886), Lights and Shadows of a Life (1887), Divorced (1887) and The Secret Directory (1896). She was also an ardent anti-suffragist who campaigned against amending the Constitution of the U.S. to permit women to vote.