Katherine Anne Porter (15 May 1890 – 18 September 1980)
Katherine Anne Porter was born in Indian Creek, Texas the fourth of five children of Harrison Boone Porter and Alice (Jones) Porter. Her family tree can be traced back to American frontiersman Daniel Boone, a heritage of which she was proud.
In 1892, when Porter was two years old, her mother died two months after giving birth to her last child. Her father took his four surviving children (an older brother had died in infancy) to live with his mother, Catherine Ann Porter, in Kyle, Texas. The depth of her grandmother's influence can be inferred from Porter's later adoption of her name. Her grandmother died while taking 11 year-old Callie to visit relatives in Marfa, Texas.
After her grandmother's death, the family lived in several towns in Texas and Louisiana, staying with relatives or living in rented rooms. She was enrolled in free schools wherever the family was living, and for a year in 1904 she attended the Thomas School, a private Methodist school in San Antonio, Texas. This was her only formal education beyond grammar school.
In 1906, at age 16, she ran off and married John Henry Koontz, the son of a wealthy Texas ranching family, and subsequently converted to their religion, Roman Catholicism. Her husband was physically abusive; once while drunk, he threw her down the stairs, breaking her ankle. On another drunken occasion, he beat her to unconsciousness with a hairbrush.
In 1914 she escaped to Chicago, where she worked briefly as an extra in movies. She then returned to Texas and worked the small town circuit as an actress and singer, divorcing Koontz in 1915. As part of her divorce decree, she asked that her name be changed to Katherine Anne Porter.
Also in 1915, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent the following two years in sanatoriums, where she decided to become a writer. It was discovered during that time, however, that she had bronchitis, not TB. In 1917, she began writing for the Fort Worth Critic, critiquing dramas, and writing society gossip. In 1918, she wrote for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado. She almost died there that year during the influenza pandemic (the Spanish flu). When she was discharged from the hospital months later, she was frail and completely bald. When her hair finally grew back, it was white, and remained that color for the rest of her life. Her experiences during treatment provided the background for her novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider.
In 1919, she moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and made her living ghost writing, writing children's stories and doing publicity work for a motion picture company. The year in New York City 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.
Eventually, however, she became disillusioned with the revolutionary movement and its leaders. During this period, she also became intensely critical of religion and remained so until the last decade of her life when she again embraced the Roman Catholic Church.
Between 1920 and 1930, she traveled back and forth between Mexico and New York City and began publishing short stories and essays. In 1930, she published her first short story collection, Flowering Judas and Other Stories. An expanded edition of this collection was published in 1935 and received such critical acclaim that it alone virtually assured her place in American literature.
In 1926, she married Ernest Stock and lived briefly in Connecticut before divorcing him in 1927. Although biographers have disagreed on the verity of Porter's conflicting statements regarding her reproductive abilities, the number of such reports and their incongruities indicate Porter's interest in female sexuality and reproduction and, at the very least, suggest that some biographers' research may be well-founded. For example, some suggest that Porter suffered several miscarriages, at least one stillbirth between 1910 and 1926, and an abortion, and after contracting gonorrhea from Stock, that she had a hysterectomy in 1927, ending her hopes of ever having a child.