1859 - 1929

"Surely martyrs, irrespective of the special phase of the divine idea for which they gladly give up their bodies to torture and to death, are the truest heroes of history."

- Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates attended Wellesley College where she eventually became head of the English Department. In 1890 she met Katharine Coman, a fellow Wellesley professor and began a relationship that lasted until Coman’s death 25 years later. After her beloved’s passing, Bates wrote Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance in which almost all the poems refer to their relationship. Previously Bates had penned poetry, textbooks, children’s fiction, and several travel books. A poem in her book Sunshine and Other Verses for Children (1889) introduced the character of Mrs. Santa Claus into popular culture. When teaching at Colorado College in the summer of 1893, Ms. Bates hiked to the top of ‘Pike’s Peak,’ “…when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.” Inspired by that majestic mountain’s view of the “purple” Rockies and nearby “fruited plains,” she captured the moment in her notebook and eventually converted it into verse. The July 4th, 1895 edition of ‘The Congregationalist’ featured her poem ‘America;’ in 1910 it was set to the music of Samuel A. Ward and formally published as ‘American the Beautiful.’ Its popularity incited massive petition drives to make it the national anthem of the US. One of the most beloved patriotic songs ever written, ‘American the Beautiful’ is likely to be found in the back of every church hymnal in United States. Bates died in Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1929 at the age of 69. Elementary Schools in both Massachusetts and Colorado bear her name. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Lesson Plan


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated United States United Kingdom

Era/Epoch First-wave Feminism (1848-1930) Progressive Era (1890-1920) Victorian Era (1837-1901)

Field(s) of Contribution


Advocacy & Activism

Art, Music, Literature & Theater




Social Justice

Social Sciences

US History

Commemorations & Honors

Bates Family Home Preserved by the Falmouth Historical Society

Katharine Lee Bates Road Named in her Honor in Falmouth

Plaque Marker Placed on Bates' Newton, Massachusetts Home

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College; Falmouth Historical Society; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Wellesley College Archives All House Collections of Bates' Manuscripts

Posthumous Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee (1970)


Related Videos


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell