Katherine Anne Porter

5-15-1890 to 9-18-1980

"I was the first native of Texas in its whole history to be a professional writer."
---Katherine Anne Porter

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 way."

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 to 1937.

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 fulfilled.

"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 big gamble."
-- Katherine Anne Porter

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Used with permission and sequenced by
Don Carroll




 
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