Born in Indiana in 1843, Elizabeth Morrison Boynton graduated from Terra Haute College in 1862. Upon graduating from Terre Haute, she applied to Wabash College, an all-male school, in her home state. The school rejected her application based on her gender. Elizabeth Boynton Harbert was active in the woman’s suffrage movement from a young age - starting in her youth in Indiana, then in Iowa and Illinois as an adult.
A talented writer, Harbert wrote about the experience for the New York Independent in 1865, gaining support for women’s rights from across the country. She soon became the Vice President of the Indiana Woman’s Suffrage Association, but her tenure in the organization was cut short when moved to Iowa in 1870 with her new husband William Harbert. In Iowa, Elizabeth Harbert continued her advocacy for female suffrage by founding the Iowa Women's Suffrage Association. She examined women’s rights and challenged the notion that women and men belong in distinct spheres in her self-published book Out of Her Sphere (1871). Harbert could rally support behind women's suffrage and equal rights wherever she went. She soon brought these talents to Evanston, Illinois.