Elizabeth Oakes-Smith, née Prince, wanted to attend college but her mother insisted that she marry at age 16. Her husband Seba Smith, twice her age, owned a daily newspaper, The Eastern Argus in Portland, Maine, that became her first publishing outlet. The couple had five sons. Her husband went bankrupt after the Panic of 1837 and they moved to New York City, where her writings helped support the family. She first won notice with The Sinless Child and Other Poems, published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1842 and the following year in book form. She attended the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 and went on to lecture widely on women's rights, abolition of slavery, and prison reform. She continued to write poetry and short fiction for popular magazines and two novels, The Western Captive or The Times of Tecumseh: A Tale ((1842) and The Salamander (1848). She also wrote plays, the first of which, Old New York, or Democracy in 1689, was performed on Broadway in 1853 starring Anna Cora Mowatt. She also wrote an autobiography that was published in parts in the 1880s and 1890s. She legally changed her own name and that of her children to Oakes-Smith.