Katherine Anne Porter
"I was the first native of Texas
in its whole history to be a professional writer."
---Katherine Anne Porter
Born in Indian Creek,
Texas in 1890, Katherine became motherless before the age of
two. Her paternal grandmother, Catherine Anne Porter (whom
she was obviously named after) became the all-important
woman in her life. After her grandmother's death in 1901,
she was sent by a very stern father to a New Orleans
Catholic convent to be educated. The rebellious, wild spirit
in her appeared early. Allowed into town on Saturdays, she
and her sister would sneak to the horse races. As she
remembered later, "I have always had a penchant for long
odds and black horses with poetic names, no matter what
their past records indicated."
In 1904, she was sent to the Thomas School for Girls in San
Antonio Texas, where in 1906, at the age of 16, she ran away
to marry twenty year-old old John Henry Kroontz, the son of
a Texas rancher. Quite frightened of sex, the marriage was
never consummated and she was divorced three years later. By
her own proclamation, "I was frigid as a cucumber, and never
really did get over it altogether." Although there are
sources that say it was 42 years before she wed again, there
are records that show marriages in 1925 to Ernest Stock,
followed by a prompt divorce, a marriage in 1933 to one
Eugene Pressly, whom she divorced in 1938 to marry Albert Erskine, with whom she returned to the United States from
Europe and settled in Baton Rouge.
In 1911, she moved to Chicago to be a reporter for a weekly
paper and bit player for a film company there. She moved on
to Greenwich village for a short time leaving Texas far
behind because she said, "I didn't want to be regarded as a
freak. That's what they all thought about women who wanted
to write. So I had to revolt and rebel; there was no other
From 1914 to1916 she traveled Texas as a ballad singer but
returned to journalism in 1918 as part of the staff on the
Rocky Mountain News. It was then that she became so ill, she
was expected to die. It was this illness that was the basis
for the masterpiece "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" which took her
20 years to complete.
She went on to Mexico, where she studied art. She was lovers
with Diego Rivera, and became friends with and smoked pot
with Mexican revolutionaries. Her time in Mexico gave her
material for some of her earliest published stories "Maria
Concepción," and "The Martyr" in 1922 and 1923. In
the mid to late 1920s she participated in, and was jailed
for protesting the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in Boston.
In 1930, after publication of "Flowering Judas and Other
Stories"-a collection of short stories, she was awarded a
Guggenheim fellowship. It was this fellowship which
supported her travels and life in Berlin and Paris from 1931
A novel begun in 1936 as "Promised Land" was finally
published in 1962 as "Ship of Fools." She was friends with
such authors as Hart Crane, Robert Penn Warren, Truman
Capote (whose "party of the century" she wouldn't attend
when she found out she was to be seated with other elderly
people), Arthur Davison Ficke, Witter Bynner, and Eudora
Welty. Christopher Isherwood, when she was 55 years old,
dubbed her "a Texas Joan of Arc." To this she responded by
pulling his hair--HARD! This action caused Norman Mailer to
call her "about the meanest little old lady in tennis shoes
I've ever met. And I guess you know that hair-pulling it a
sure sign of sexual frustration."
She wrote nearly until her death in Silver Spring, Maryland
in 1980. And, although one unfulfilled wish was "to die with
my boots on--I want to be working full tilt at my
typewriter, so that I'll be in the middle of a sentence when
the end comes," her wish to be cremated and have her ashes
interred near her mother's grave in Indian Creek, Texas, was
"A house is just like a man --you ought to live with
it at least a year before deciding on anything permanent. And even then it's a
-- Katherine Anne Porter
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