Biography and History

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.

Source: From the finding aid for C1175