Four Missouri Lives

Friends of the Library, Inc. is a nationwide volunteer organization to raise awareness about services provided by local libraries. The chapter at Southwest Regional Library in Bolivar, MO (now known as the Polk County Library) financially supports programming for both children and adults.

In 1991, Missouri Humanities Council awarded Friends of the Library, Inc. a grant to host a lecture series entitled “Four Missouri Lives”. These evening book discussions were held January through April of 1992. They stressed four themes of the Humanities – Literature, History, Sociology, and Folklore – through the reading of autobiographies or biographies of well-known Missourians. The four chosen figures were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Twain, George Washington Carver, and Jesse James.

For Literature, discussion was centered on the author’s purpose and writing style. Each discussion was connected to History by viewing the time period of the subject and connecting to broader themes of Midwestern culture and national history. The study of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jesse James produced sociological conversation about gender and race, respectively. When focusing on the final theme of Folklore, discussion leaders debated the concept of these four people being local heroes. They also compared the facts of their lives to media portrayals of their stories.

Each discussion was led by a different scholar with significant association or experiential knowledge related to their designated Missourian. 230 members of the community took part in these discussions, fulfilling the desire of Friends of the Library, Inc. and Missouri Humanities Council to educate the public on topics related to history and the humanities.