Austin was raised in a Universalist and spiritualist family in Hook's Point, Iowa, where she married in August 1883. Around the same time, her father discovered Lucifer, an anarchist/free love journal published by Moses Harman. Austin and her entire family were influenced by Hamon's writings, but it was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and the ensuing reaction which brought Austin to anarchism.
A member of the American Press Writers' Association, Austin wrote for many working-class and radical newspapers. She also contributed to Lucifer and to anarchist periodicals such as The Firebrand, Free Society, Discontent, and The Demonstrator. Austin's interests included sexual reform and the economic status of working people. In 1897 and 1899, Emma Goldman visited Austin at her home in Caplinger Mills, Missouri, where she gave several well-attended lectures.
"Her devotion to liberty made her an anarchist; her hostility to patriarchy made her a feminist. She was too much the former to join the organized women’s movements of her day, and too much the latter to ally with mainline political anarchists—most of them men—whose devotion to liberty often stopped short of women’s liberation."
— Miller, Howard S. Kate Austin: A Feminist-Anarchist on the Farmer's Last Frontier
- Presley, Sharon. "Feminism in Liberty". Feminista! The Journal of Feminist Construction. Retrieved 2006-03-25.
- Carolyn, Ashbaugh. "Radical Women: The Haymarket Tradition". The Lucy Parsons Project. Retrieved 2006-03-25.
- Miller, Howard S. (April 1996). "Kate Austin: A Feminist-Anarchist on the Farmer's Last Frontier". Nature, Society and Thought 9 (2): 189–209.
- "AUSTIN, Kate, American journalist.- An Anarchist Witness of the Haymarket Drama". Research on Anarchism. Retrieved 2006-03-25.
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