Lucy Foster Madison was born in Kirksville, Missouri. Both her parents and her brother died when she was a teenager, leaving her to care for two younger sisters. She became a teacher in Louisiana, Missouri, then in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1890, she married Winfield Scott Madison. In 1893, a prize offered by a New York newspaper prompted her to enter a short story contest, and she won second place. She became a professional writer of both short fiction and novels, producing a series of "Peggy Owens" books for girls and other popular works for children and young adults.