Catharine Trotter was born in London to Scottish parents. She became proficient in French, and studied Latin grammar and logic. She started writing as a child. Her first novel, The Adventures of a Young Lady, later retitled Olinda’s Adventures, was published anonymously in 1693, when she was 14 years old. In 1695, her first play Agnes de Castro was staged, and it was published the following year. Three years later, Fatal Friendship was staged and printed. Both were well received by critics and the public. She wrote three more plays over the next three years. She was also studying philosophy, and at age 23, published her first major philosophical work, A Defence of Mr. Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1702). John Locke was so pleased by it that sent Catharine gifts of money and books. She went on to write two more works on moral philosophy and two theological tracts. In 1708, she married Rev. Patrick Cockburn, with whom she had three children. The family suffered both financially and socially after Rev. Cockburn refused to take the loyalty oath to King George I on his ascension to the throne in 1714. He finally complied in 1726, and was appointed to St. Paul's Chapel in Aberdeen, Scotland. Catharine agreed to assist Thomas Birch in compiling a collection of her works, but died before it was printed. Birch posthumously published a two-volume collection entitled The Works of Mrs. Catharine Cockburn, Theological, Moral, Dramatic, and Poetical (1751) that popularized her work for scholars and historians.