Lucile Morris Upton blazed new trails for female journalists and brought widespread attention to the Missouri Ozarks region. A new biography and an upcoming lecture by Susan Croce Kelly shine a spotlight on this remarkable Missouri writer.

By Sandy Selby

Photos Courtesy of State Historical Society of Missouri

One of the state’s most fascinating journalists is the focus of an upcoming presentation at the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO) in Columbia. Lucile Morris Upton, a native Missourian whose stories about the Ozarks brought widespread attention to the region, is the subject of the talk and of a new biography by Susan Croce Kelly.

The presentation takes place Tuesday, March 12, 2024, from noon to 1 p.m. in the auditorium at the Center for Missouri Studies, 605 Elm Street in Columbia.

Kelly will describe Upton’s early career and her journey westward. “Lucile heard that the West was a good place for an independent woman, so she set off for New Mexico to teach,” Kelly says. “However, her passion guided her toward journalism, and she landed in newspaper reporting jobs in Denver and El Paso.”

Opportunity seemed to be pointing her toward London, but on her way there, she stopped in the Ozarks to visit her ill mother and it was there she stayed and made her name as a chronicler of the Ozarks way of life.

Kelly, who shares Upton’s passion for newspaper journalism, has done extensive research on this influential Missouri writer.

The presentation is part of the historical society’s History on Elm series, which began in 2023 to welcome the public back to the Center for Missouri Studies following the pandemic. “We have explored a variety of topics with different speakers each month,” says Beth Pike, assistant director of communications and education outreach at SHSMO.

The series has been met with great enthusiasm from history-lovers throughout the region. “We have enjoyed a wonderful response by the public, many who are regulars for the History on Elm series,” Pike says. We average from 60 to 125 audience members who attend the series each month. Our most recent program in February featured Greg Olson, who talked about his recent book about Missouri’s indigenous people. We had 170 members in the audience for Greg’s talk. We’ve invited some of these speakers to share their presentation in the virtual format after they’ve given a talk at the Center for Missouri Studies. These programs are recorded and shared on our website so folks can watch anytime.”

The upcoming program on March 12 and all History on Elm programs are free and do not require advance registration. 

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.