Porter, Katherine Anne, 1890-1980

Alternative names
Birth 1890-05-15
Death 1980-09-18

Biographical notes:

Born in Texas, American author Katherine Anne Porter is primarily remembered for her exquisite short stories. Although her published output was relatively small, she was highly esteemed for her distinctive, perceptive writing, and her singular exploration of human motivation, experience, and relations.

From the description of Katherine Anne Porter correspondence, 1942-1964. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 52434128

Katherine Anne Porter, short story writer and novelist, known for Ship of Fools, was a long-time friend of Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler.

From the guide to the Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler collection of Katherine Anne Porter, 1943-1983, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Pulitzer Prize winning short story writer and novelist, Katherine Anne Porter, was born in 1890, in the town of Indian Creek, near Brownwood, Texas. Perhaps best known for her short stories such as "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," and her novel, "Ship of Fools," Porter was a prolific writer. Although Ms. Porter spent much of her adult life on the East Coast, and traveling to Europe and Mexico, her best work was set in a Texan background. Ms. Porter died in 1980, and was buried in her home town cemetery.

From the description of Roger L. Brooks Katherine Anne Porter Papers, 1898-1977, (bulk 1972-1977). (Texas State University-San Marcos). WorldCat record id: 49888172

Journalist, author, and political activist.

From the description of Katherine Anne Porter papers, 1935-1974. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 729065325

American writer.

From the description of Postcard to George Marion O'Donnell [manuscript], 1959 October 15. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647847468

From the description of Letter to "Dear Anne" [manuscript], 1959 April 17. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647808011

Katherine Anne Porter was an American journalist, essayist, storywriter, poet, novelist, and political activist. Her works deal with dark themes such as betrayal, death, and the origin of human evil. In 1906, at age 16, she married John Henry Koontz, who was physically abusive to her. She ran away and worked as an actress and a singer in both Chicago and Texas. In 1918, she wrote for the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS in Denver, Colorado, where she almost died during the influenza pandemic. This experience provided the background for her critically acclaimed book PALE HORSE, PALE RIDER. In 1919 she lived in New York City, which had a politically radicalizing effect on her, and in 1920, she went to work for a magazine publisher in Mexico, where she became acquainted with members of the Mexican leftist movement, including Diego Rivera. In 1938 she married Albert Russel Erskine, Jr., a graduate student who was 20 years younger. Between 1948 and 1958, Porter taught at Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Texas, where her unconventional manner of teaching made her popular with students. In 1962, she published her successful novel SHIP OF FOOLS. In 1966 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for THE COLLECTED STORIES OF KATHERINE ANNE PORTER (1965), and was also appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1977, Porter published THE NEVER-ENDING WRONG, an account of the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, which she had protested fifty years earlier.

From the description of Katherine Anne Porter collection, 1940-1945. (Peking University Library). WorldCat record id: 166636714

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) was an American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, and won a Pulitzer in 1966 for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter . She was married four times but had no children.

From the guide to the Katherine Anne Porter Photograph, undated, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Born as Callie Russell Porter on May 15, 1890 in Indian Creek, TX; worked for the Fort Worth critic in 1917 and the following year joined the staff of the Rocky Mountain news; spent extended periods of residence in Mexico, 1920-31; went to Europe in 1931; after 1945, she lectured and accepted various appointments as writer-in-residence at several universities; her published books include: Flowering Judas and other stories (1935), Pale horse, pale rider (1939), and Ship of fools (1962); she wrote to Margaret Winkler, who worked in the Westwood Book Store in Westwood, CA; died Sept. 18, 1980 in Silver Spring, MD.

From the description of Letters, 1946-1967. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 38515277

American author.

From the description of Letters to the editors of the "Kenyon Review" [manuscript], 1947-1961. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647808007

From the description of Ship of fools and related papers [manuscript], 1934-1968. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647872788

From the description of Papers of Katherine Anne Porter [manuscript] 1962, n.d. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647827883

From the description of Letters to Virginia Moore [manuscript], 1958-1959. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647846157


From the description of Letter, 1954 May 25, Ann Arbor, Mich., to Robert F. [and Georgia C.] Haugh, Ann Arbor, Mich. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 34363827

Katherine Anne Porter, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author, was born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas, in 1890. She was one of five children. Her mother, Mary Alice Jones Porter, died during childbirth in 1892, leaving the Porter children to be raised by their father, Harrison Boone Porter. Mr. Porter took the children to Kyle, Texas, in his native Hays County, to live with him and his mother, Catherine Anne Skaggs Porter. The young Ms. Porter attended Kyle public schools. The family was very poor, but her grandmother proved to be a very strong and resourceful woman, making a deep impression on Ms. Porter. In 1901, when Ms. Porter was eleven years old, her grandmother died. Not long afterwards, in 1904, the family moved to San Antonio, where Ms. Porter attended the Thomas School. She studied acting at this time, and performed in several summer stock productions.

In 1906, at sixteen, Porter married John Henry Koontz of Inez, Texas. Mr. Koontz' family was Roman Catholic, and Ms. Porter converted to that faith in 1908. The marriage did not last. Ms. Porter left Mr. Koontz and Texas in 1914, heading north to Chicago to pursue her interests of writing and acting. Apparently it was around this time that she took her grandmother's name, Katherine Anne. The divorce from Mr. Koontz became final in 1915, the same year in which she became very ill with tuberculosis. She returned to Texas, recovered from her illness, and in 1917, worked for the Fort Worth Critic, covering theatrical and social events. Soon afterwards, in 1918, Ms. Porter moved to Denver, Colorado, not to return to Texas for close to fifteen years. In Denver, she reviewed books and theatrical performances for the Rocky Mountain News . During this period she became nearly fatally ill with an influenza which was sweeping the nation. This experience with grave illness served as the background for her short novel, Pale Horse, Pale Rider .

During 1919-1920, she worked in New York City as publicist for a motion picture company, wrote stories for the children's magazine Everyland, and met several Mexican artists who encouraged her to write journalistic works on Mexico. She traveled to Mexico for the first time in 1920, during the time of the Obregon Revolution, and she made many more trips to Mexico during the 1920s. Her first published short story, "Maria Concepcion", appeared in 1922, and was soon followed by other short stories and essays, poetry and book reviews. She was married briefly to Ernest Stock, an English World War I pilot, from 1925-1926. In 1927, she became very interested in the Sacco and Vanzeti case in Mexico, but she would not publish the story of this experience until 1977, in "The Never-Ending Wrong".

"Flowering Judas", one of her most well known short stories, was published in 1930. She was living in Mexico at this time, and met Eugene Pressly, whom she married in Paris in 1933. Around this time, she returned to Texas for a family visit. She also traveled to Paris and Germany during the turbulent 1930s. In 1936, she moved back to America and finished "Noon Wine" and "Old Mortality", and began work on "Pale Horse, Pale Rider". The next year, she and Mr. Pressly separated. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Porter went to New Orleans and became involved with Albert Erskine of The Southern Review . She and Mr. Erskine were married in April, 1938.

In 1939, J. Frank Dobie's Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver and Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider were both nominated for fiction awards by the Texas Institute of Letters. Dobie won the prize, leaving Ms. Porter feeling insulted and bitter. (Porter was later awarded the Texas Institute of Letters fiction prize for her 1962 novel, Ship of Fools .) In 1940, Porter and Erskine separated, and Ms. Porter moved to Saratoga Springs, New York, to continue her writing, beginning what would become Ship of Fools . In 1945, she began taking work as a Hollywood scriptwriter, and in 1948 began teaching at various universities including Stanford, the University of Michigan, Washington and Lee, and the University of Liege.

In 1958, rumors circulated to the effect that Harry Ransom, of the University of Texas at Austin's Humanities Research Center, was planning to name a building or at least a room for her at the University. Ms. Porter was very enthusiastic about these reported plans, and accepted an invitation to visit the University. She even considered moving to the area, but the agreement with UT fell apart. Ms Porter was once again disappointed in Texas.

In 1959, Ms. Porter, supported by Ford Foundation grant, moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she continued to work on Ship of Fools, which was published in 1962.

In 1965, she published The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, which won a Pulitzer Prize Award. She also received honorary doctorates from many universities, and was very much in demand for lectures and teaching positions. In 1966, she received an honorary degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, and in that same year she made the decision to donate her personal papers and library to UMCP. The university named a room for Ms. Porter, which was opened on May 15, 1968.

In the Spring of 1976, Ms. Porter was again given an opportunity to return to Texas. Dr. Roger Brooks, President of Howard Payne University, in Brownwood (close to Ms. Porter's birthplace), organized a literary conference of Porter scholars. The university also presented Ms. Porter with an honorary degree. Dr. Brooks and Ms. Porter became close friends in the last years of her life, and during this visit, Dr. Brooks took Ms. Porter to visit her mother's and brother's grave in her hometown cemetery. It was at this time that Ms. Porter decided to be buried next to her mother in her home town. Later that year, she suffered a series of strokes. Her last book, "The Never Ending Wrong", an account of the Sacco and Vanzetti case in Mexico, was published in 1977.

Ms. Porter died on September 18, 1980, and she was buried alongside her mother's grave, in the Indian Creek Cemetery, near Brownwood, Texas.

Since Porter's death, her reputation as a "Texas" writer has grown even though she herself had fled the state and felt unappreciated by it. Critic A.C. Greene, writing in The Fifty Best Books on Texas, calls Pale Horse, Pale Rider "the best Texas fiction ever written." Greene also concludes that he "always thought it strange [that] she was so bitter in her disavowal of things Texan but did so many of her best stories with a Texas background." (Greene, A. C. The Fifty Best Books on Texas . Dallas : Pressworks, 1982. p.33)

Katherine Anne Porter's return to Texas has now come full circle. A historical marker has been erected in Kyle, Texas, celebrating her career. Her childhood home there has recently been purchased by a preservation group, and the house will be restored for use as a museum and a residence for visiting writers at Southwest Texas State University. The 1998 Texas Writers Month poster, hung widely across the state's libraries and bookstores, featured Ms. Porter.

From the guide to the Roger L. Brooks Katherine Anne Porter Papers, 1972-1977, bulk: 1976-1977, (Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos)

Author of novels, short stories, and literary criticism.


From the description of Papers. 1842-1980. (University of Maryland Libraries). WorldCat record id: 23672883

Katherine Anne Porter, American short story writer and novelist.

Glenway Wescott, 1901-1987, novelist.

Monroe Wheeler, 1899-1988, publisher and director of exhibitionsat the Museum of Modern Art.

From the description of Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler collection of Katherine Anne Porter, 1943-1983. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702163984

Katherine Anne Porter, American short story writer and novelist.

Glenway Wescott, 1901-1987, novelist.

Monroe Wheeler, 1899-1988, publisher and director of exhibitionsat the Museum of Modern Art.

From the description of Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler collection of Katherine Anne Porter, 1943-1983. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79628330

Biographical Note

  • 1890, May 15: Born Callie Russell Porter, Indian Creek, Tex.
  • 1906: Married John Koontz (divorced 1915)
  • 1915: Changed name to Katherine Anne Porter
  • 1915 - 1917 : Diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent two years in sanatoria during which she decided to become a writer
  • 1917: Drama critic and gossip reporter, Fort Worth Critic
  • 1918: Reporter, Rocky Mountain News
  • 1920 - 1930 : Traveled between New York City and Mexico, became involved in Mexican revolutionary politics, and began to publish short stories and essays
  • 1922: Published first short story, "Maria Concepcion," Century Magazine
  • 1926: Married Ernest Stock (divorced 1927)
  • 1930: Published Flowering Judas. New York: Harcourt Brace and Co. Married Eugene Pressley (divorced 1938)
  • 1930s: Moved to Europe, settling in Paris, France, as a member of the American expatriate literary community
  • 1937: Published Noon Wine. Detroit: Schuman's
  • 1938: Married Albert Russell Erskine, Jr. (divorced 1942)
  • 1939: Published Pale Horse, Pale Rider. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co.
  • 1944: Published The Leaning Tower: and Other Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co. Fellow of Regional American Literature in the Library of Congress
  • 1949 - 1959 : Writer-in-residence and guest lecturer on literature at various universities
  • 1962: Published Ship of Fools. Boston: Little, Brown
  • 1965: Published Collected Stories. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World
  • 1966: Awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for fiction for Collected Stories
  • 1967: Awarded the Gold Medal Award for fiction
  • 1980, Sept. 18: Died, Silver Spring, Md.

From the guide to the Katherine Anne Porter Papers, 1935-1974, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)


Born as Callie Russell Porter on May 15, 1890 in Indian Creek, Texas; worked for the Fort Worth critic in 1917 and the following year joined the staff of the Rocky Mountain news ; spent extended periods of residence in Mexico, 1920-31; went to Europe in 1931; after 1945, she lectured and accepted various appointments as writer-in-residence at several universities; her published books include: Flowering Judas and other stories (1935), Pale horse, pale rider (1939), and Ship of fools (1962); she wrote to Margaret Winkler, who worked in the Westwood Book Store in Westwood, California; died September 18, 1980 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

From the guide to the Katherine Anne Porter Letters to Margaret Winkler, 1946-1967, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

Katherine Anne Porter:

Katherine Anne Porter was born May 15, 1890, in Indian Creek, Texas, to Harrison Boone and Mary Alice Jones Porter. As a girl Porter received a traditional, albeit incomplete, formal education. In the course of her lifetime she became a voracious reader, and eventually traveled extensively in the United States and abroad. Porter's private life included a series of failed marriages, and was punctuated by affairs of a platonic and erotic nature. A consistent conflict in Porter's life revolved around the requirements of her art and the demands of daily life. It wasn't until later in her career that Porter established what were for her the ideal conditions for the production of literary work.

From an early age Porter envisioned herself as a writer. Much of her fiction is based on her own experiences, and many of her fictional characters are based on the people she knew. Although relatively modest in terms of volume, critics of Porter's work have consistently remarked on its uniformly high quality. Porter's literary art aims at what might be characterized as an "essentialist" rendering of life and character. In her fiction, Porter seeks to uncover the fundamental singularities of circumstance and personality which produce the texture and drama of lived experience.

With the appearance of María Concepción in the December 1922 issue of Century Magazine, Porter published the first story that is considered part of her canon. Her fiction from the 1920s was collected in a volume titled Flowering Judas, published in 1930 in a run of 600 copies. Her second collection of stories, Flowering Judas and Other Stories, appeared in 1935. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels, was published in 1939, and collected together three works that had originally appeared in the years 1936-1938. Porter became one of America's leading writers, perhaps best known for her novel Ship of Fools (1962). In 1966 she won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porte r. Katherine Anne Porter died in Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 18, 1980.

Eugene Pressly:

Eugene Dove Pressly was born in Clarendon, Pennsylvania, on May 12, 1904, to Elizabeth Dove and Ralph McDermott Pressly. (Elizabeth Pressly eventually remarried Karl Merchant). He was the oldest of three children, including brother Hearst Smith Pressly (b. 1907) and sister Suzanne (married name Collins, b. 1909). Eugene Pressly was Katherine Anne Porter's second or third husband (married March 18, 1933, divorced April 9, 1938). He never remarried after their divorce.

Pressly attended Dubois High School in Dubois, Pennsylvania, before going on to do undergraduate coursework in liberal arts studies at Denver University from 1924-1926. From 1928-1929 he attended the University of Mexico, where he studied Spanish in addition to Mexican literature and history. He received no advanced academic degrees. In the course of his career and extensive travels, Pressly eventually attained fluency in Spanish and French and a basic knowledge of German and Russian.

During the 1920s and early 1930s Pressly worked at a series of clerk-stenographer jobs throughout the United States and Mexico. From 1928-1931 he was employed in Mexico as a stenographer and translator for the Institute of Current World Affairs and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Pressly temporarily clerked at the American Embassy in Madrid from 1931-1932, where he also did social and economic research. From May 1932 through September 1936 he worked in the Foreign Service, clerking in Switzerland for the Department of State in postings at Basel (the Consulate) and Geneva (Prepatory and Monetary Conference) and also at Paris, France. In Paris he was employed as a confidential clerk-stenographer and translator in his capacity as a Treasury Department liaison.

After a brief stint as a Spanish-English stenographer for an oil concern in Venezuela, Pressly returned to the Foreign Service. From 1937-1941 he was again posted as a State Department employee, initially in Moscow during the height of the Stalinist terror, but leaving at the outbreak of German-Russian hostilities to clerk at the Nine-Powers Conference in Brussels, Belgium. He later returned to Moscow to work as a confidential translator-stenographer for the American Ambassador.

Pressly was inducted into the United States army in July 1942. Until his honorable discharge in October 1945, he was assigned foreign language duties with a mobile radio unit of psychological warfare. During this period he worked for the Office of Strategic Services in Oran, North Africa, and later with the liaison office of Seventh Army headquarters in southern France and the Rhineland. For his military services, Sergeant Pressly was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal.

From 1947-1948 Pressly worked in Japan on an obscure "employment agreement" entailing the American military occupation there. He also rejoined the Foreign Service, clerking in the Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. There, he handled confidential files and worked in the "preparation of material having to do with the reporting of the political section of the Embassy." These were to be Pressly’s last important government positions.

Pressly's career in the 1950s and 1960s centered in and around Denver, Colorado. He continued to work as a clerk-stenographer in various civilian positions and eventually took employment as a hotel clerk in Denver. He became increasingly isolated from his family at this time, and his life took a further downturn after he suffered a severe beating in a robbery attempt in 1966. Eugene Dove Pressly died in Denver, Colorado, on May 31, 1979, a little over a year before the death of his former wife, Katherine Anne Porter.

From the guide to the Katherine Anne Porter & Eugene Dove Pressly Papers, 1924-1962, (Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)


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