Katharine Sergeant Angell White
|Katharine Sergeant Angell White|
Portrait of Katharine Sergeant Angell White.
September 17, 1892
July 20, 1977 (aged 84)|
Blue Hill Memorial Hospital
Blue Hill, Maine
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Education||Bryn Mawr College (1914)|
Ernest Angell (m. 1915; div. 1929)|
E. B. White (m. 1929; her death 1977)
Nancy Angell Stableford
Katharine Sergeant Angell White (September 17, 1892 – July 20, 1977) was a writer and the fiction editor for The New Yorker magazine from 1925 to 1960. In her obituary, printed in The New Yorker in 1977, William Shawn wrote, "More than any other editor except Harold Ross himself, Katharine White gave The New Yorker its shape, and set it on its course."
Katharine Sergeant was born to Charles Spencer Sergeant and Elizabeth Shepley in Winchester, Massachusetts on September 17, 1892. She had two older sisters, Elizabeth and Rosamund. She grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts at 4 Hawthorn Road. Katharine's's sister, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, a 1903 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, was also a writer. Elizabeth, called "Elsie," wrote books about Willa Cather (a personal friend), poet Robert Frost, and the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
She began working for Harold Ross at The New Yorker in 1925, six months after its inception. She started out reading unsolicited manuscripts for two hours a day, then quickly moved to full-time work. She proved indispensable as an editor, writer, and shaper of the magazine's advertising policy. She was an extremely literate, elegant, and cultivated woman whom James Thurber described as "the fountain and shrine of The New Yorker."
In 1929, she left her husband and married a younger man, E. B. White, also a New Yorker writer, whom she had recommended that Ross hire. They were both back at work at The New Yorker the next day. After this marriage, she became known as Katharine S. White.
White was widely known as a woman of integrity. She also had a refined sense of good taste that showed in her deft handling of verse, profiles, and casuals. She served as The New Yorker's first fiction editor and helped mold the magazine into the literary giant it is today. She promoted many writers, including Nabokov, John O'Hara, Mary McCarthy, John Cheever, John Updike, and Ogden Nash.
Besides being the wife of E. B. White, she was the mother (from her first marriage) of a son, writer Roger Angell, and daughter, Nancy Angell Stableford. Roger Angell has spent decades as a fiction editor for The New Yorker and is well known as the magazine's baseball writer. Her other son, Joel White, was a naval architect and boat-builder who owned Brooklin Boatyard in Brooklin, Maine.
White originally wrote under the name Katharine Sergeant Angell. As Katharine White, her only book, Onward and Upward in the Garden, was published after her death. It is a compilation of her garden articles and journals. Horticulture magazine stated, "Although she never claimed to be more than an amateur, her pieces, especially her famous surveys of garden catalogs, are remarkable for their fierce intelligence and crisp prose." Her husband credits this book project with saving his own life after her death, as it gave him her words every day, and something to work on after she had died.
- Onward and Upward in the Garden, edited, and with an introduction by E. B. White, New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, c. 1979.
- "Katharine White, Ex-Fiction Editor of The New Yorker, Is Dead at 84". New York Times. July 22, 1977. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
Katharine S. White, who as the first fiction editor of The New Yorker exerted a profoundly creative influence on contemporary American literature, died Wednesday at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital near her home in North Brooklin, Me. She was 84 years old.
- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2007. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007. 
- Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915
- 1900 United States Federal Census
- 1900 United States Federal Census
- Massachusetts Marriage Records, 1840-1915
- Julie V. Iovine (May 28, 1998). "Algonquin, at Wits' End, Retrofits". The New York Times.