Katharine Lee Bates

A picture of the author Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates (1859 - 1929) was an American poet and songwriter, best known for composing America the Beautiful. She published many volumes of poetry, including those for children, popularizing Mrs. Claus in 1889 with Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.

Bates was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, her father was a Congregational pastor. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1880, she taught high school English literature, returned to Wellsley as a professor, studied history and poltics at Oxford, and joined an honor society for social sciences, Pi Gamma Mu.

Bates never married, described as a "free-flying spinster." She had a lifelong partner, Katharine Coman, an economics professor at Wellesley. Bates was a lifelong Republican but broke from the party against Woodrow Wilson because he opposed the League of Nations, "our one hope for peace on earth."

America the Beautiful: Pikes PeakHer inspiration for writing America the Beautiful came near Pikes Peak, Colorado, when she was teaching at Colorado College in 1893:
"One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

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