Mary Paxton Keeley
MARY PAXTON KEELEY WAS BORN June 2, 1886, in Independence, Mo. She started her college career at Hollins College in Virginia, then after spending a summer at the University of Chicago, she realized her interest in journalism. There was no journalism school at Chicago, so she came to the University of Missouri where a school of journalism was scheduled to open. “So, in the middle of the school year, in 1908, I was sitting on the doorstep waiting for this school of journalism to start,” she wrote. In 1910, she was the first female graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.
After graduation, she became the first female news reporter in Kansas City, where she accepted a position with the Kansas City Post. However, after only 15 months on the job, Keeley had an acute appendicitis and had to leave her position. After recuperating, she was ready to go back to work and looked to Walter Williams, founder of the university’s journalism school, for advice. He suggested she go back to school and get a degree in home economics as a specialty background for her journalism. She then spent several years working in rural areas of Missouri as a reporter, but after becoming sick again, she decided she would rather teach. In order to teach she needed a graduate degree so she went back to school once again and received her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in 1928.
From 1929 to 1952, she was a professor of journalism and creative writing at Christian College (now Columbia College) in Columbia. She was also active in the community and was a founding member of the Columbia Art League and Boone County Historical Society.
On December 6, 1986, Mary Paxton Keeley passed away at the age of 100.