Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Corilla E. Harn Shearer, 1830-1929

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University

Corilla E. Harn was born in Frederick County, MD in 1830. Her parents, John Harn II and Charlotte Hay Harn, had nine children in all; Corilla was the sixth child. She attended the Cedar Hill Seminary, graduating in September 1854. In 1865 she married Scottish-born, Civil War veteran, David Shearer. The couple did not have any children. By 1870 the couple lived in Allegany County, Maryland. Before and after her marriage Corilla taught school. In 1870 David was listed as a miner and in the 1880 census he was listed as a miner and a member of the Maryland state legislature. By 1900, David was listed in the census as a retired miner and the couple lived alone in Barton, MD. By 1910 Coirilla was 78 and a widow, boarding in a household in Mt. Airy, MD.

Ida Husted Harper, in volume 6 of the History of Woman Suffrage, noted that Corilla Shearer and her sisters, Ellen Harn and Margaret Grove, "led the early suffrage work" in West Virginia. The sisters, no doubt, had a hand in the founding of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association in 1895. Harper wrote that the sisters and a fourth activist "constituted the State association until the amendment campaign of 1916." (See the bio sketches for Ellen Harn and Margaritte J. Harn Grove in this database.)

David Shearer passed away in November 1900 and Corilla lived with a sister and then a niece for the next three decades. Corilla Shearer died in August 1929, shortly after her 99th birthday.


Photo Credit: "Ellen Harn and Her Two Sisters Live to Combined Age of 300." TheLincoln Star. 17 Apr. 1932, p. 26, at

"Fairmont Women Among the First to Come Out Openly for the Equal Suffrage Cause," The West Virginian, 19 August 1920 Accessed 18 November 2020.

Harn, Ellen D. Manuscript of the Harn Family, 7 July 1996. Accessible online at

Harper, Ida H., editor. The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association (1922), p. 706. [LINK]

"Timeline of West Virginia Women's History." West Virginia Division of Culture and History, n.d,

Find-a-Grave entries for Corilla Elizabeth Harn Shearer, 1 August 1930 and David D. Shearer, 19 November 1900. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

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