Partner Katharine Coman

Queer Places:
16 Main St, Falmouth, MA 02540, Stati Uniti
Wellesley High School, 50 Rice St, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481, Stati Uniti
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Wellesley College, 106 Central St, Wellesley, MA 02481, Stati Uniti
70 Curve St, Wellesley, MA 02482, USA
Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540, Stati Uniti

Katharine Lee Bates (August 12, 1859 – March 28, 1929) was an American songwriter. She is remembered as the author of the words to the anthem "America the Beautiful". She popularized "Mrs. Santa Claus" through her poem Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride (1889).

Bates was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, the daughter of Congregational pastor William Bates and his wife, Cornelia Frances Lee. She graduated from Needham High School in 1872, from Newton High School in 1875,[1] and from Wellesley College with a B.A. in 1880. She taught at Natick High School during 1880–81 and at Dana Hall School from 1885 until 1889. She returned to Wellesley as an instructor, then an associate professor 1891–93 when she was awarded an M.A. and became full professor of English literature. She studied at Oxford University during 1890–91.[2] While teaching at Wellesley, she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics.

Bates was a prolific author of many volumes of poetry, travel books, and children's books. She popularized Mrs. Claus in her poem Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride from the collection Sunshine and other Verses for Children (1889).

She contributed regularly to periodicals, sometimes under the pseudonym James Lincoln, including Atlantic Monthly, The Congregationalist, Boston Evening Transcript, Christian Century, Contemporary Verse, Lippincott's and Delineator.[3]

A lifelong, active Republican, Bates broke with the party to endorse Democratic presidential candidate John W. Davis in 1924 because of Republican opposition to American participation in the League of Nations. She said: "Though born and bred in the Republican camp, I cannot bear their betrayal of Mr. Wilson and their rejection of the League of Nations, our one hope of peace on earth."[4]

Bates never married. In 1910, when a colleague described "free-flying spinsters" as "fringe on the garment of life", Bates answered: "I always thought the fringe had the best of it. I don't think I mind not being woven in."[5]

Bates lived in Wellesley with Katharine Coman, who was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College School Economics department. The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Coman's death in 1915.[7] In 1922, Bates published Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance, a collection of poems written "to or about my Friend" Katharine Coman, some of which had been published in Coman's lifetime.[8]

Some describe the couple as intimate lesbian partners,[9] citing as an example Bates' 1891 letter to Coman: "It was never very possible to leave Wellesley [for good], because so many love-anchors held me there, and it seemed least of all possible when I had just found the long-desired way to your dearest heart...Of course I want to come to you, very much as I want to come to Heaven."[10] Others contest the use of the term lesbian to describe such a "Boston marriage". Writes one: "We cannot say with certainty what sexual connotations these relationships conveyed. We do know that these relationships were deeply intellectual; they fostered verbal and physical expressions of love."[11]


Katherine Lee Bates House, Falmouth, MA


Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540


Oak Grove Cemetery, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540

Bates died in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on September 28, 1929, and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery at Falmouth.[6]


  1. http://museumsonthegreen.org/wp-content/uploads/Katharine-Lee-Bates-Manuscript-Collection.pdf
  2. Leonard, John William, ed. (1914), Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, New York: American Commonwealth Company, p. 82
  3. Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. Fee
  4. New York Times: "Republican Women Declare for Davis," October 20, 1924, accessed January 6, 2012
  5. Schwarz, "Yellow Clover", 65
  6. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 2892-2893). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  7. Leopold, Ellen (2006). "My soul is among lions: Katharine Lee Bates' account of the illness and death of Katharine Coman". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. University of Nebraska Press via JSTOR. 23 (1): 60–73. doi:10.1353/leg.2006.0008.
  8. Internet Archive: Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance, (E.P. Dutton, 1922), quote viii, accessed January 6, 2012
  9. Schwarz, Judith (Spring 1979). ""Yellow Clover": Katharine Lee Bates and Katharine Coman". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. University of Nebraska Press via JSTOR. 4 (1): 59–67. doi:10.2307/3346671. Quote p. 59: Katharine Lee Bates and Katharine Coman were a devoted lesbian couple.
  10. Schwarz, "Yellow Clover", 63
  11. Palmieri, Patricia A. (Summer 1983). "Here was fellowship: a social portrait of academic women at Wellesley College". History of Education Quarterly. History of Education Society via JSTOR. 23 (2): 195–214. doi:10.2307/368159. Quote, pp. 205.
  12. New York Times: "A Good Minor Poet," March 24, 1912, accessed January 6, 2012
  13. Hufstader, Louisa. "Sold! Historic Katharine Lee Bates Home". Falmouth Patch. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  14. Katharine Lee Bates Elementary School in Colorado Springs, CO
  15. Jane Chance, Women Medievalists and the Academy (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), 241
  16. Songwriters Hall of Fame: Katharine Lee Bates, accessed January 6, 2012
  17. "Katahrine Lee Bates biography". LGBT History Month. Retrieved 5 October 2012.