After their father died during her early childhood, Caroline Congdon and her four siblings grew up under their mother's care in Onondaga County, New York. The family had little money, and the Congdon children learned to value thrift and hard work. Educated both in her mother's home and in the district school of her rural area, Caroline Congdon displayed early intellectual talent, but chronic poor health limited her opportunities. At age fourteen she experienced renewed symptoms of fever and paralysis that left her thereafter confined to her bed.
Still able to use her hands, she composed poetry from her bed using a pencil and an upside-down writing table that held a piece of paper in place above her head and chest. Her volume of poems, entitled The Guardian Angel, appeared in 1856 with a portrait of her unusual circumstance and a preface by the author that begged "the Critic to spare my little book, and the tender-hearted Reader to drop a tear of sympathy for its afflicted Authoress." She died four years after the book's publication.