Luella Wilcox St. Clair Moss
1865 – 1947
Educator & Civic Leader
Luella (Wilcox) St. Clair was born in Virden, Illinois. She was named a valedictorian of her class and went on to attend Hamilton College in Kentucky. She would graduate from Hamilton in only one years’ time.
Her husband, Frank St. Clair, was selected as president of Christian (now Columbia) Female College in the summer of 1893. St. Clair died four months later in November 1893. The College Board then offered the presidency to his widow and mother of their five year-old daughter, Luella. Upon accepting Luella became one of the first female college presidents in the United States.
“When the Christian College Board of Trustees hired Luella Wilcox St. Clair as
president…they had reason to expect committed and intelligent leadership.
However, the power and force of that leadership far exceeded anything they
could have anticipated,” From “Columbia College: 150 years of Courage, Commitment and Change”
St. Clair was known as the “steam engine in petticoats,” and served as president and co-president of Christian Female College for most of the next 28 years. St. Clair’s accomplishments as President through the years were immense and included; doubling the size of the faculty, creating a college magazine and college orchestra, expanding academics to include a School of Modern Languages and a School of Music, and re-inventing the 4-year school into one of the country’s first accredited 2-year junior colleges. Additionally, she held the first Ivy Chain ceremony, created the school’s first women’s basketball team and directed the construction of a multitude of buildings and landmarks on campus including Launer Auditorium, Missouri Hall, the Rogers Memorial Gate, one of the area’s first indoor swimming pools and Dorsey Hall. Notably, she hired a Columbia female architect, Mary Hale, to design Launer Auditorium. She also supervised the construction of St. Clair Hall which was originally named in honor of her husband, but eventually became known as a dedication to her contributions to the college.
Following her tenure at Christian College, St. Clair embarked on a career of civic and political activism. She became the first President of the Missouri League of Women Voters, the first woman on the Columbia Board of Education and the first woman in Missouri to be nominated for national office when she won the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1922.
Luella Wilcox St. Clair Moss, a Boone County citizen of the highest merit and stature, died in 1947 at the age of 82.