Talk:Katharine Lee Bates

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Mrs. Claus[edit]

Did you all know that Bate's credited with creadting the Mrs. Santa Claus character in poetry? Well, I added a line and referance about it. I found the referance a week or so ago in researching Yenta Claus and was glad to find the Bates article. I hope this was a welcomed addition I am sure there is more than meets the browser's eye and digging deeper would turn up more sources regarding this not well known fact. --Bhires 06:24, 12 September 2006 (UTC)

On her book "Yellow Clover"[edit]

I have not thoroughly researched Bates' sexual life, but I do understand poetic language. The author of this page cites a line from one of Bates' poems in "Yellow Clover," implying that it was strong evidence for her lesbian relationship with Katherine Coman. The lines of this poem, however, are most obviously refering to Jesus Christ. She calls him "My love," just as many chase women have refered to Christ. "If you could come once more." As he came once, so Christians believe he will come again. "From your high place" (Heaven). "I would not question you for heavenly lore/But, silent, take the comfort of your face." She would not doubt his deity if she could see his face and confirm her faith. At the very least this is not legitimate evidence of her homosexuality. Cccowan 16:46, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

When I see this sort of debate, I usually try to beef up the entry with facts before looking into an ongoing dispute. The entry is embarrassingly brief. In the course of that effort, however, I note the opening words of the "Prefatory Note" to Yellow Clover: "Katharine Coman, to whom the following lyrics are addressed..." Jesus Christ indeed! That doesn't mean the poem in question has any sexual content, but it's Katharine C. that Katharine L.B. wants to see again for sure. Bmclaughlin9 (talk) 21:47, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I added a mention to Yellow Clover, I hope in a enough neutral tone. I added a link to the complete text of two of the poems, so that everyone can interpret the content as they think correct.--Dia^ 16:26, 28 October 2007 (UTC)
There is no evidence to support same outside of occasional interpretations of her work by parties seeking to read a homosexual relationship into them. The Falmouth Historical Society extensively refuted the claim (and not for lack of wanting to find some confirmation either). The research was published among the "Letters" section of Spritsail, a local history journal, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2004). Chèvre Bleue 01:19, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
While a local historical society may have refuted the claims, there are several books that have stated her lesbian relationship to Coman:
  • Stevens, Tracey (2002). How To Be A Happy Lesbian: A Coming Out Guide. Amazing Dreams Publisher. p. 110. ISBN 0971962804. </ref>
  • Elledge, Jim (2004). Masquerade: Queer Poetry in America to the End of World War II. Indiana University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0253216346. </ref>
  • Schwarz, Judith (Spring 1979). "Yellow Clover: Katharine Lee Bates and Katharine Coman". Frontiers IV 1. pp. 59–67. 
And these are just a couple of the ~50 from just a simple Google search: [1]. So, my point is, she had some sort of long-term relationship with Coman. Several authors state that it was a lesbian relationship, though there are disputes on the subject. And whether or not it can ever be proven, the discussion warrants overview by the LGBT WikiProject.
Thoughts? -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 06:45, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
There really aren't disputes on the subject. The study by the Falmouth Historical Society, which, while a "local historical society," as your choice of language has sought to minimize it, is the worldly authority on the life of Katharine Lee Bates; they maintain her Falmouth home, her personal writings and possessions, the furnishings of Coman and her home in Wellesley (which is otherwise no longer existent), and the transcripts and recordings from those closest to her that were interviewed in the three decades following her passing. There is a smaller collection of Bates' preserved materials maintained by Wellesley College. With the exception of several works of art, a chest of drawers, a desk, and several small personal items, the rest of this smaller collection has been on loan to the Falmouth museum since 1999. In this context, the Falmouth Historical Society is not simply a "local historical society," but rather, the authority versus the recent speculations published by gay and lesbian fringe writers --if we're to use equally marginalizing language-- the matter of which dates back no longer than a decade or so and is drawn from nothing more than fanciful interpretations of her published works. She did have some relationship with Coman which study of primary source material has shown to have been her house-mate. Bates' article warrants oversight by historians and studied researchers, while it may generate interest by the LGBT project. Chèvre Bleue 05:26, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
Sorry - I think I touched a nerve and I didn't mean to.
My point was that many historians have said she was in a lesbian relationship. So far it seems you only have one source that says she wasn't, and even that isn't sourced in the article (though you do have it listed here). Per WP:UNDUE, the POV in the article is a little skewed. In the article you've waay minimized one side ("one lesbian culture website") and waay maximized the Historical society - mentioning it twice in the article. I recognize the FHS has done all this work, but really both FHS and the many other historians are "speculating". She's dead, we'll never be able to ask her what her relationship with Coman was like. So we have to report what's WP:V, not the "truth" that we'll never know. -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 15:06, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
No, it's not a nerve. It's a response to the contestation of the preponderance of historical evidence and scholarship by a handful of pundits and agendists who have supposed things about an historical figure I consider important. It isn't that it strikes a nerve that Bates was or was not a lesbian, it's that the circumstances of her life are being modified without appropriate consideration of anything outside of contemporary interpretations of her poems. These poems, of course, don't have any bearing on her sexuality; rather, they are her art.
I included the historical society as the principle source because they are the current worldly authority on Bates and her life, as I previously wrote. There aren't "many" historians who support the agendist vision of who Bates should have been. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to find any.
The sources you've presented include:
  • Jim Elledge is an award-winning "gay men's poet," to quote a review.
  • Tracey Stevens, who has no professional expertise (although her partner is a sociologist), has self-published a book on "how to come out" for lesbian women and had several articles published on online homosexual interest websites.
  • Judith Schwartz is an amateur historian who has nonetheless published extensively from her post at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. Her work suggests that Bates and Coman's relationship was never defined in any of either of their writings as a lesbian relationship... which Schwartz develops as one using "evidence" from their poetry (which ultimately isn't suggestive; it relates to Bates' devotion to caring for her dying friend and housemate).
Now, here is a summary of some professional historians' published works on Bates' relationship with Coman:
  • Ellen Leopold, who has been a visiting lecturer on women's history at Boston University, Cornell University, and the University of Rochester, is a professional consultant specializing in women's and children's educational affairs. She writes in her 2006 article, "'My soul is Among Lions": Katharine Lee Bates's Account of the Illness and Death of Katharine Coman," that Judith Schwartz's article cited above is the only work of consequence (that is, based on historical documents and considered research) that suggests Bates and Coman's relationship was a lesbian one. Leopold finds no further suggestion of a lesbian relationship in over 30 primary and secondary sources on both Bates and Coman published over the course of 90 years.
  • Katharine Balderston, now deceased, was an English professor and historian at Wellesley College and a visiting professor at Cambridge in England and Harvard University. She was also a curator and the archivist for the Bates and Coman collections at Wellesley. She had been a student of both Bates and Coman and published the first comprehensive biography of Bates. Her take on Bates and Coman's relationship: Bates cared for and worked hard to ease the suffering of a dying nearly life-long friend. She based this on all of the available personal writings of both women and her own personal relationship with both of them as well.
  • Dorothy Burgess, who died in 2003, was the niece of Katharine Lee Bates. Though she was also an amateur historian like Judith Schwartz, she also knew Bates personally and was the author of the more recent comprehensive biography (and there are only two) on the life of her aunt. While she didn't publish anything specific to the claim that Bates and Coman were lesbians that arose for the first time in the 1980s, she did comment on it in the recordings at the Falmouth Historical Society: No, (Coman) was like a sister.
I can go on, but there really shouldn't be a need. In light of this, it is actually the suggestion that Bates and Coman shared a sexual relationship that stands opposed to the WP:Undue policy. Potentially, in accordance with that policy's position that "(v)iews that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views," the contention that Bates and Coman were sexually involved should not be included at all, but should be appended to a "See also"" section as a separate article.
Chèvre Bleue 23:02, 15 March 2008 (UTC)


Please provide citations for the below three sources? -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 23:13, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Ellen Leopold (as above)
  • Katharine Balderston (as above)
  • Dorothy Burgess (as above)
Actually, what I mean is, where are these assertions made? Printed material? Websites? -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 23:22, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
Here are the citations for their relevant works:
  • Balderston, Katharine Canby. Katharine Lee Bates. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1941.
Republished in part in:
  • Glasscock, Jean and Katharine C. Balderston, et al. Wellesley College, 1875-1975: A Century of Women. Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College, 1975.
And also in part in:
  • James and James, et al., eds. Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1971.
And of Burgess:
  • Burgess, Dorothy. Dream and Deed: The Story of Katharine Lee Bates. Norman, Ok.: University of Oklahoma, 1952.
And also see:
  • ________. Spritsail, 18:2; "Letters." Falmouth, Mass.: Woods Hole Historical Collection, 2004.
Chèvre Bleue 23:45, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Leopold, Ellen. "My soul is Among Lions": Katharine Lee Bates's Account of the Illness and Death of Katharine Coman;" Legacy: A Journal Of American Women Writers, 23:1; Tonkovich, Nicole et al., eds. Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska, 2006.
Chèvre Bleue 10:03, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

I hope to investigate this further. I note at the start that Balderston dates from 1941, no matter how often reprinted. Far from likely to be open to even the possibility of an intimate relationship. Burgess 1952. Ditto. A relative and amateur is also suspect. I think the best thing to do is to provide some quotations, as I have begun to do. I'll try to keep it balanced, and I may have to add a line about how difficult it is to discern the nature of such relationships. I'll try not to choose sides and I don't have a very strong opinion either way at the moment since I think it is hard to interpret the overwrought language of the period. I suppose I'm suspicious, but I don't like the way people leap to conclusions about what things "must have" been like. Life has more imagination than we do. Bmclaughlin9 (talk) 00:37, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Clarification of discussion[edit]

I appreciate your willingness to discuss Bates, and to provide the citations. I'm unable to access most of those online, and can't even find the Balderston work at all, but at least I do appreciate it and I'm learning tons :)

I don't think I'm understanding your concerns on this article, though. Just to be clear, are you objecting to a description in the article of Bates as "lesbian"? Are you objecting to having a category like Category:LGBT people from the United States on the article? What about a description of her relationship with Coman as "loving" - is that something you object to? I'm just trying to understand where we agree and where we disagree. Thanks :) -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 01:47, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for attempting to refocus this discussion with grace and poise. Were I able to provide you with the copies of the sources cited above that are in my possession, I certainly would. The first work, the 1941 book on Bates by Katharine Balderston, is nearly impossible to find a copy thereof, and, in fact, I have only been able to look at it twice at the Boston Athenaeum and at the Lauinger Library at Georgetown University, my undergraduate alma mater. Evidently, it was published in rather small numbers. At least, that's my belief based on its apparent scarcity. The republications in the two compendiums ("Glasscock and Balderston 1975" and "James and James 1971") borrow substantially from the original--particularly the latter, however, and they shouldn't be terribly difficult to locate at a good research (or university) library.
I truly hope you will forgive my strongly worded previous entries in this discussion. The added color of my responses were brought on in direct response to what I perceived as an argumentative contestation of the historical record and the annals of the Falmouth and Wellesley collections on Bates in favor of recent speculative assessments of Bates' poetic works.
I suppose it's important to confess that I am originally from Falmouth, Massachusetts and that my thesis while at Georgetown several years ago dealt with the authors and literary culture of New England colleges and universities in the early 20th century. Katharine Lee Bates was a writer I specifically studied in a historical --rather than a literary or artistic-- context. She is one of the best known among the writers I researched (Of course, I recognize the Wikipedia prohibition on original research, which is why I have not cited my own published work on the matter).
To specifically respond to your question, I absolutely do not object to the description of Bates and Coman's relationship as "loving." Moreover, were it reasonably encyclopedic to include, I would be more than pleased to include substantial references that their relationship was very much a loving one. However, it was documentedly neither romantic nor sexual (as much as it can be, given that neither one of them ever acted on any impulses they may or may not have had). As such, I do object to the description of their relationship as a lesbian one. There is no historical evidence to support such a conclusion (although, interestingly, there is evidence to support that Katharine Coman had a romantic relationship with a male Boston College professor -- it was, however, likely as taboo as a lesbian relationship might have been at that time considering she did not marry the man). The only "evidence" that Bates and Coman were romantically or sexually involved with each other are references to love and interpersonal compassion in Bates' poetic works. As the first Wikipedia editor in this discussion noted, however, these poems were works in praise of Jesus Christ (and other related Christian themes). They were written at a time that Bates was nearly constantly involved as a caretaker in the slow decline of Coman as a result of her affliction with breast cancer.
Because I object to the lesbian description of Bates and Coman's personal interactions based upon the historical record, I correspondingly object to Bates' inclusion among Category:LGBT people from the United States. That category does not extend to "(f)amous people who are simply rumored to be gay, lesbian or bisexual" according to its inclusion policy (ref.: the second line of List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people: Ba-Bh where Katharine Lee Bates is included as a "songwriter," rather than a poet and educator).
I don't know if your concern is that I have a personal or political objection to lesbians or homosexuality in general. I thought that might be the case during our first interactions. I can assure you that my objection is intellectual and based upon the historical knowledge of Bates, her work, and her lifetime. If she had been a lesbian, I would be just as interested in ensuring that same was properly documented and without inclusion of a contrary statement. Chèvre Bleue 09:45, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, Chèvre Bleue! I'm coming at this article knowing just about nothing of Bates, her life, or anything (except the words to the song). What I know about her is what I've seen in the tiny bit of literature I've read. I've been doing a lot of work on articles and adding citations to them regarding sexual orientation, so that's where my "expertise" in this matter comes from.
So far just about every source I've read mentions a life-long relationship with Coman. Sometimes the source says "loving", sometimes "romantic", and in one case they refer to Coman as Bates' "lover". I don't particularly want to go into that semantics. I would, however, like to rewrite the text a little bit, since it currently focuses strongly on what their relationship was not. But really, this isn't my main point.
My main point is that Bates probably does belong in one of the LGBT categories, and probably does belong on the LGBT people list. I recognize that the word "lesbian" didn't come to mean "homosexual" until after Bates' death. However, most current definitions of the word fit this relationship - two women who cared for each other through their entire lives, and to the exclusion of men. Whether or not they had sex has nothing to do with it. Our article here on Homosexuality says "Homosexuality refers to sexual behavior or attraction between people of the same sex". Bates and Coman were certainly attracted to each other, to the point of deciding to spend their lives together.
Furthermore, the categories on wikipedia serve a functional purpose. People browsing the LGBT cats might expect to find her in the cat, especially since she had an almost quintessential "Wellesley marriage". Ellen Gates Starr would probably not have labeled herself a "lesbian" either. And when it comes to inclusion of Bates in the List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people: Ba-Bh, the "rumored" line comes from people wanting to add their favorite (or least favorite) actor to the list just because there are rumors. Bates' relationship is well documented - we're just at odds here about whether it can be called "lesbian" :) I'm anxious to hear your thoughts. -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 15:15, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

This discussion seems to have ended inconclusively. I've updated the paragraph. I do wonder how it happens that Bates is so frequently called lesbian in the popular press, perhaps only because she has been included in certain popular writing about lesbians, writing that is not sensitive to the debate about the actual quality/content of these female-female relationships. Bmclaughlin9 (talk) 01:02, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Text of America the Beautiful[edit]

…In the poem and history of her art and perhaps economics does it state of her beliefs that of God and the Carrectoristic of her writing of the section in which is performed as from Sea to shining Sea as an American Land bases.

My consideration of just a thought while reveiwing the poem is that she as a teacher was of some reference of things performed, which leaves me to beleive that she had studied the past, weather right or wrong, for this may consist of the terming God in which she had used, what exactly does she represent here. It also states on the talk page of America the Beautifull from an individual that she had some what no interest in the poem, that it was for the people to consider, well if that is not interest i do not know what is.

I have a poem writin in consideration of James DeLancey Chief Justice of New York whom passed on in 1760 it may well be a consideration and would not allow anyone to redue it and or change it in any way, which again is also done with her poem. All good it's what we call a free country. I would acknowledge to read it again. Before all this typeing i did search many an issue from this article as even the representation of vermont and the Johnson whom represented Congress in it's redress formation just to find out how Miss Bates became a christian follower rather then just the study of not only one religion though many, and performed through perhaps as a Congressional practisioner. Who's to say.

Truely the article is great for reading and is very knowledgable, Thank You, the only thing is her Poem of America the Beautifull and what it represents , that is what it represents to me is a justifying situation, it's just the part where someone had added the information of her writing from Sea to shining Sea, that it is only in performance with this American Land jointed as a United States which ofcourse it is. Allthough being miss Bates is of American Born she still is an English Teacher and also gives respect to God, in what way only the other can tell and or concord of , the other is now of the party not of writing it, perhaps meaning a public, she must of respected that, and if so then the sons and daughters well to achieve from her teachings are of quite the relationship , perhaps of her studies, now is the question of how far back does one stop and sence the Art Economics History profile of an establishing livelyhood, till next time. Hows that for respect. I shall go now and review her famous poem, and perhaps relate some consideration towards my anc-es-try. 12:10 A.M. E.S.T. Happy Fourth Of July it's interesting how important it is since it took over a year to acomplish, though how do we actually get that information other then a cut short version.David George DeLancey (talk) 04:12, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

superbowl & coke[edit]

Based on the recent coke commercial, and subsequent controversy, there is a viral meme going around describing Bates as a lesbian who left the Republican party due to xenophobia. I hav eno comment either way, but involved editors of this article may want to be on alert, as the article is likely to get increased attention for the next bit. Gaijin42 (talk) 02:06, 4 February 2014 (UTC)