Lois Mark Stalvey was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She struggled to get through high school in the 1940s, and decided to enter the workforce instead of going on to higher education. After graduation, she immediately got her first writing job as a copy writer for the local Gimbels department store. A year later, she got married, and about a year after that, she divorced. In the early 1950s, she moved to Chicago and started an ad firm called Lois Mark & Associates. In 1955, she married advertising director Bennett Stalvey, Jr., and sold her firm to become a homemaker.
In the late 1950s, the couple moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Lois joined in a fight for the right of an African-American family to move into their segregated neighborhood.
In 1965, she founded the Panel of Philadelphians, which sent teams of four women around the city to talk with groups about racial justice.
Her first book, The Education of a WASP, was published in 1970 to great acclaim from critics.
In 1976, she and her second husband divorced, and she moved to West Philadelphia, where she taught writing and journalism at the Community College of Philadelphia and wrote articles for the Philadelphia Inquirer and other newspapers.
In 1979, she moved to Sedona, Arizona, where she continued to write and teach. Her subsequent books were Education of an Ordinary Woman (1982) and Three to Get Ready: The Education of a White Family in Inner City Schools (1997). She also wrote a bimonthly book review column for the Sedona Red Rock News from 1984 to 2004.