Eliza Happy Morton was born in Westbrook, Maine, the daughter of two teachers. She attended Westbrook Seminary and at age 16 became a teacher herself. Unsatisfied with the educational methods and materials of the time, she began to write articles for educational journals advocating reforms. In 1879, after she was appointed to supervise the teaching of geography in the schools of Battle Creek, Michigan, she began to research and write her own textbook, Potters' New Elementary Geography, published in 1888. Its success prompted her to write an advanced geography textbook, which also sold well, and several other texts. She also wrote poetry and well-known religious hymns.