Monday, July 11, 2016

America the Beautiful

Katharine Lee Bates and America the Beautiful
by Martha Rogers

Many Americans would like to see this song as our National Anthem because it is so much easier to sing than The Star Spangled Banner. However, most of do not know the author or origin of this beloved song.

It was written by Katharine Lee Bates, a prolific poet and professor of English at Wellesley where she later became head of the English department.

Katharine was born the daughter of a Congregational minister, William Bates and Cornelia Frances Lee Bates, a teacher at Mount Holyoke Seminary. She was their youngest daughter. The left picture is one of her as a young woman.

Her father died when Katharine was only two months old. Her brothers then went to work to support the family. In spite of the hardships, she went on to receive her B.A. from Wellesley in 1880. She taught Natick High School and at Dana Hall School before leaving to study at Oxford University 1890-1891. She returned to Wellesley in 1891 to become a professor and be awarded an M.A. degree.  Here is Professor Bates at Wellesley. 

In order to support herself, she wrote poetry and articles. Her first piece, “Sleep,” was published in The Atlantic Monthly during her undergraduate years at Wellesley.

She loved literature and her teaching career became her central interest in her adult life. She believed human values could be revealed through literature.
A life-size statue was erected to commemorate her time at Wellesley.

In addition to her many poems, she wrote a children’s book, Goody Santa Claus
on a Sleigh Ride, which popularized the idea of Mrs. Claus. This story appeared in the collection, Sunshine and other Verses for Children, in 1889. She was a regular contributor to travel books and periodicals as well. At one time she even wrote using the pen name  James Lincoln.

In 1893, she made a trip to Colorado where she rode in a wagon and then on a mule to the top of Pike’s Peak. When she reached the top, the panorama spread filled her with great joy.

This is what she had to say about the experience. “We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired, but when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonders of America seemed displayed there with the sea-like expanse. That view inspired the words to a poem, America, the Beautiful. I penned it that night upon my return to Colorado Springs."

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Bates never married and died in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on September 28, 1929. She is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

 Her historic home in Falmouth has been preserved and is now owned by Ruth P. Clark who purchased it in 2013.

As a tribute to our great country, I'm giving away an E-book copy of my novella, Summer's Surprise which is set on the historic Route 66 where it runs across the panhandle of Texas. 

Leave a comment below about this song and what it means to you and be entered into the drawing.

Summer Patterson, a photo-journalist for a popular magazine, is on a mission to capture the charm and nostalgia of the old Route 66 through the West Texas Panhandle in story and picture, but when her car breaks down in a "middle of nowhere" town, her mission takes a turn she never expected. Cody Harper is a retired rodeo champ filling in as a mechanic until he can get his own ranch. Repairing Summer's foreign car will take days, so he arranges for her to stay with his grandmother Ellis. Meeting the people of McLean, Texas and riding with Cody to discover the beauty of a part of Texas she'd never seen leads her in a direction she had no plans to take. She returns to her busy life in the city of Dallas, but her heart is back in West Texas where she lost it along Route 66.  Getting it back will be no easy task, especially if Cody has his way.

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie, Seasons of the Heart, and The Homeward Journey series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas and Not on the Menu in Sugar and Grits. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW. She writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2016.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 


  1. I loved learning about the author and origin of this wonderful song! Thanks so much for sharing, Martha!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  2. Thanks for stopping by Britney. Since yours is the only comment, I'll hold it over until next month and automatically enter you then. If you return then, you'll be given another entry. Do you have a Kindle or the Kindle App on your computer or phone?