Poet Katherine Lee Bates

By Brian Burns and Judd Proctor

Katherine Lee Bates was born in Massachusetts in 1859.

She graduated from Wellesley College in 1885, and stayed on to teach English. There, she met history professor Katherine Coman, and the two became bound as one.

Because female professors were poorly paid, both women also wrote books and articles. During a summer teaching job in Colorado, Bates traveled to the top of Pike’s Peak. Inspired by the majestic view, she wrote a poem titled “America the Beautiful.”

With the poem’s popularity, it was set to music by Samuel Ward. This afforded the couple a steady income, and a custom-built house near Wellesley College.
In 1915, after Coman’s death, Bates expressed her loss saying, “so much of me died with Katherine Coman that I’m not quite sure whether I’m alive or not.”
Bates herself died in 1929, having touched so many lives from sea to shining sea.

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