The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: R is for…


Author Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) had a complicated relationship with religion. She was raised in a strict, Methodist household by her devout grandmother. Then, at 16 years old, she ran away from school to get married and subsequently converted to Catholicism for her new husband. While the marriage would end nine years later, Porter would continue practicing Catholicism on and off throughout her life.

Porter became weary of the Catholic Church after traveling to Mexico and making friends with revolutionaries. Her religion didn’t mesh with the realities and socialist values of her new community. She witnessed many struggling, yet the Church didn’t use their resources to care for local people. Porter’s exposure to political ideas abroad in Europe led her to further question organized religion. Towards the end of her life, Porter reportedly returned to her Catholic faith.

Interestingly, even when she wasn’t actively practicing Catholicism, Porter would date correspondence with days dedicated to saints or other religious feast days. She also maintained friendships with nuns and priests, discussing the daily needs of life, literature, art, and the Church. Unsurprisingly, faith was a common theme in Porter’s writing. She explored her struggles with religion through her characters in Flowering Judas, Virgin Violeta, and other stories as she tried to come to terms with femininity, sexuality, and the role of marriage within life and the Church.

To learn more about Katherine Anne Porter, visit us online or in- person! You can browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s in the exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

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