Harriet Earhart was the daughter of a Lutheran minister who went to Kansas as a missionary. She became a teacher, and fled to Iowa during the Civil War. In 1865, she returned to Kansas and married Aaron Q. Monroe, with whom she had a son. To help support her family, she opened a private school in Atchison that grew into a college with more than 2,600 students. Ill health forced her to give up running the school, and she became a journalist for several Western newspapers in Washington, D.C. Subsequently she took to the lecture circuit as a speaker on religious, historical, economic, and other issues. She contributed articles to educational journals and published her first book, Past Thirty, in 1878, followed by The Art of Conversation in 1889. Her brother Edwin Stanton Earhart was the father of Amelia Earhart.