Cornelia Barns, the daughter of a theatre impresario, was born in Flushing, New York, in 1888. She attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and her cartoons published in The Masses, The Suffragist, the Women Voter, The Liberator and the Birth Control Review.
Max Eastman, the magazine editor, argued in his book, Love and Revolution (1965): "Cornelia Barns possessed an instinct for the comic in pictorial art that few American artists have ever surpassed. She was a gentle brown-eyed girl with soft hair sleeked down around a comely and quiet face. She had no ambition or aggression in her nature, and came through the open door of the Masses like a child into a playroom, moved only by her liking for what she saw there. When its door closed she disappeared from fame as quietly as she had entered upon it - I don't know why."
After the First World War, Cornelia, suffering from tuberculosis, moved to California with her husband and young son. In her later years she designed magazine covers and contributed cartoons to local newspapers.
Cornelia Barns died in 1941.