Granddaughter of colonial poet Aaron Cleveland, poet and essayist Elizabeth Kinney grew up in New York City. After her short first marriage, which left her widowed with one child at the age of twenty-five, she began to publish her articles and poetry in popular literary magazines such as Graham's, Sartain's, and the Knickerbocker. In 1841 she married publicist and writer William Kinney of New Jersey, and became a regular contributor to the Newark Daily Advisor when he took an editorial position there.
In 1850 William Kinney received an assignment in Sardinia, and for four years the Kinneys resided among the literati of Turin. When his post expired, they moved to Florence, where the Anglophone community included writers Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Anthony Trollope. Here Elizabeth Kinney composed her metrical Italian romance Felicità before returning to Newark in 1865.
The lively, romantic tones of her writing met with critical and popular success, and Elizabeth Kinney's work continued to appear in periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic. She published a full volume of poetry (Poems) in 1867.