The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: T is for…


Katherine Anne Porter was born Callie Russell Porter in Indian Creek, Texas in 1890 and grew up in Kyle, Texas. She was, at best, ambivalent about her home state. Porter left Texas in 1918 to travel the world as a writer, ultimately earning a spot as one of the acclaimed Modernist women writers of the 20th century, winning the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Porter never lived in Texas again, only traveling back to her home state sparingly for visits.

Many scholars have speculated on the influence of Porter’s roots. Specifically, how the experience of growing up poor in the South transformed into the fictionalized settings of her thoughtfully constructed stories. While Porter was adamant that none of her writing was autobiographical, her ideas came from everyday observations and experiences. The result is numerous parallels between Porter’s life and family, and the lives of her characters. 

Porter was too modern for the traditional, subservient role of a woman and was offput by small-town expectations. However, after visiting University of Texas at Austin in 1958, she wrote:

“that is the country of my beginning in this world, my earliest memories, and it is wonderful to find that the bonds which seemed no stronger than a spider web are tough as steel thread!”

She would later recall more of her childhood memories in Notes on the Texas I Remember, including pleasant visits from Governor Hogg when she was a child. He notably named his daughter Ima, which led to jokes of him naming another rumored (but fictitious) daughter Ura which are still taken as gospel on Texas playgrounds today. 

Just as time softened some of Porter’s feelings towards Texas, it has given Texas a chance to recognize her writing talent. Her childhood home in Kyle, Texas has been restored and is now the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, hosting readings of Porter’s stories and other literary events. In addition to a charter school named after her, there are multiple writing grants in her honor and two historical markers. Porter was cremated and her ashes buried next to her mother in Indian Creek, Texas. 

You can explore digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.

Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!

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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