August 12th: Erwin Schrödinger & Katharine Lee Bates

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the birthday of Erwin Schrödinger, the quantum physicist born on this day in 1887. Like we often do, we’ll flip in an entirely different direction to learn more about songwriter Katharine Lee Bates.

Bates was born on August 12, 1863, and worked in a variety of capacities related to writing: teaching, poetry, editing and translating written works, and, as mentioned above, writing songs.

Portrait of Katharine Lee Bates, date and author unknown.

Portrait of Katharine Lee Bates, date and author unknown.

Bates is best known for making two fairly large contributions to popular and American culture: she made famous the concept of Mrs. Claus (wife of Santa Claus), and she wrote the poem that is now the lyrics to America the Beautiful. The latter was inspired by an 1893 trip she took to the top of Pikes Peak, which gave her the impression of the entire nation spread out before her.

Outside of that, though, Bates was a prolific writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and was well-regarded as a scholar of English literature and drama.

Bates studied at Oxford and taught at Wellesley (eventually becoming chair of the English department); her partner of 25 years, Katharine Coman, was also a professor and dean at the college. A professorship at Wellesley was established in Bates’ name after she died, and a dormitory is also named in her honor. Bates is also an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was listed as an LGBT icon during the 2012 LGBT History Month.


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