Caroline Lavinia Scott was born on October 1, 1832, in the quiet college town of Oxford, Ohio, to Mary Neal Scott and John Witherspoon Scott. While she was First Lady, Caroline told a reporter at the White House that she remembered a happy childhood at Oxford, Ohio, enjoying a close relationship with her parents and siblings: an older sister Elizabeth, a younger sister Mary and two younger brothers John and Henry.
Caroline's talents in art and music were nurtured from childhood years. Her Aunt Caroline Neal often visited the Scott family in Oxford and gave her niece Caroline many hours of instruction and guidance in drawing. Caroline received her degree in music, art, and literature from the Oxford Female Institute in 1852. It was during her school years that she met the young Benjamin Harrison. In August of 1852, even though Benjamin was not earning an income, he and Caroline decided to marry in two months. On October 10, 1853, they were married in the parlor of the Scott home. They moved to Indianapolis in 1854. Caroline and Benjamin had three children: a son Russell, daughter Mary, and an infant daughter that died in 1861.
As First Lady, Caroline was very concerned with the living quarters at the White House. She found conditions less than desirable. Caroline was the first First Lady to manage her own project and even held a held a press briefing. She lobbied Congress to completely remodel and expand the White House. The bill did not pass, but they gave her money to clean the house and make minor improvements.
Caroline worked for the welfare of all people and was active in support of orphanages. She was active with the Medical Fund for Johns Hopkins Medical School. Caroline served as the Chairman of the Washington Committee of the Women's Fund for the school. She attended two receptions in November 1890 in Baltimore to aid in the effort. Caroline's niece also attended and wrote to her sister the following account:
Thursday Aunt Carrie went over to Baltimore to go to the Theatre to hear Booth and Barrett in the Evening. She then, and I also, were invited to a lunch at the Johns Hopkins Hospital yesterday. The Johns Hopkins people are willing to admit ladies to the Medical School, if they get from the ladies who are interested $150 000.00, and Miss Garret has given $50 000, and is deeply interested. She got Aunt Carrie to set the day for this reception, and people came from New York, Phila, Washington, & a number of other cities. I went over yesterday morning on the nine o'clk train. Aunt Carrie & Mrs. Findlay met me at the train... We went to the Hospital, where most of the guests had assembled, & Aunt Carrie held a little reception. In a short time the President of the Board of Trustees gave his arm to Aunt Carrie and escorted her out to lunch. I followed with a dear old, old gentleman who was the President of some thing else, and the guests followed... After the lunch and a few speeches, we were escorted through the hospital...
Caroline helped organize the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In 1890, the newly-formed DAR asked her to become their first President General. In February 1892, Caroline gave the first recorded speech ever by a sitting First Lady at the first Congress of the DAR.
In the winter of 1891-1892 while she tried to fulfill her social obligations, Caroline was frequently ill with bouts of bronchial infections. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In July, she was taken to Loon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains for treatment. On September 20, she was brought back to the White House, where she died on October 25, 1892. Following funeral services at the White House and at the First Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, she was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.