Katherine Anne Porter, a writer who allowed her passions to guide her and lead her into literary fame.

Katherine Anne Porter, a writer who allowed her passions to guide her and lead her into literary fame.

Some inspirations are more silent than others. Katherine Anne Porter is one those lesser-known, often silent ones. Yet she wasn’t a silent woman by any means. She was born in Texas in 1890, a rural Southern girl from white privilege. But she would become something very different.

At the age of 2, Katherine lost her mother. Her father’s subsequent neglect of her led to her becoming a strong and self-reliant young woman who followed her passions and intelligence wherever they led her. She married John Henry Koontz at the age of 15: he was the first of four husbands. Katherine’s urge to travel, to follow her passionate heart, was too strong for one life. It was also strong enough to overcome frequent travel and a fight with tuberculosis in 1917. She worked as an actress, singer, and secretary in Chicago and Texas before finally moving to Greenwich Village in New York City in 1919.

Following her passion for writing, which she would later state was always present, she became a writer of short stories and articles. She was published mostly in little magazines and CENTURY magazine. She gained fame for her grammatically flawless prose that dealt with the themes of justice, betrayal, and the unforgiving nature of the human race. It also dealt with the intersection of the personal and politic, especially in response to World War II and the Nazi treatment of Jews.

Whatever the public viewed of her then and now, however, Katherine didn’t let it dissuade her from her passions. She had a turbulent life – fraught with romantic and personal struggles – but she kept going, kept following her heart wherever it led her. And that, in itself, may be one of those silent inspirations we sometimes need to remember. As Katherine stated in an interview later in her life:

The thing is not to follow a pattern. Follow your own pattern of feeling and thought. The thing is to accept your own life and not try to live someone else’s life. Look, the thumbprint is not like any other, and the thumbprint is what you must go by.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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