The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: C is for…

Cats!

It is widely acknowledged that cats choose their owners, showing up out of the blue and making themselves at home. This was definitely the case for Katherine Anne Porter, who often took in strays that came wandering into her garden from the street. She would treat them to canned fish or anything else she might have on hand and end up with a new furry friend.

No matter where she traveled, from Mexico City to New York to Paris, a cat always seemed to find its way into Porter’s home. As a solitary writer, her cats were sometimes her only companions through long days of writing. Porter shared stories of their antics in her letters, recounting her cat Satchmo loved to play with marbles and her white cat Lucifer enjoyed going on picnics. Lucifer is photographed below in 1957 on a picnic with Porter’s niece Anne Holloway Heintze and family. Porter loved cat throughout her life, and celebrated her 82nd birthday with a cat piñata!

Images of Katherine Anne Porter throughout the years and her various feline companions. From the Katherine Anne Porter papers.

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

Digitized photographs of Katherine Anne Porter can be found in our Digital Collections repository.

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and 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.

Featured Collection: Frontlash records

Frontlash was an activist group, led by young adults, instrumental in increasing voting and political engagement among American youth and minorities. Frontlash also served as a training ground for future personnel in the labor movement. It was created as a nonpartisan organization to challenge political and electoral apathy among youth in the 1960s.

Frontlash staffer handing out registration material

Frontlash stepped up their voter education efforts for young people when the 26th Amendment was passed in 1971. The organization sent members door-to-door, created poster displays, and set up public stands on sidewalks and college campuses to encourage wider political education and to register young voters. Later, they expanded their activities beyond voting rights to include international democracy and fair labor practices, such as child labor, apartheid, minimum wage, and workers rights.

This collection has extensive material related to instruction in labor organizing and union support, as well as significant material relating to Frontlash’s political activity. Types of records include organizational records, financial records, minutes, mission statements, reports, and photographs.

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The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: B is for…

Buddha!

Among Katherine Anne Porter’s favorite belongings is a wooden statue of a laughing Buddha. The statue is about 8 inches tall and was given to Porter by her older brother, Harrison Paul Porter, who picked it up during his time in the Navy, circa 1904. Porter’s views on religion varied throughout her life and she never practiced Buddhism, but the statue was a constant writing companion, sitting prominently on her desk.

Today the statue, which shows visible cracks from use over the decades, continues to occupy it’s rightful place next to Porter’s typewriter in the Katherine Anne Porter Room in Hornbake Library.

Explore the the finding aid for Katherine Anne Porter Papers. Digitized photographs of Katherine Anne Porter can be found in our Digital Collections repository. Contact us to learn more about the Katherine Anne Porter Room in Hornbake Library.


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.

New Exhibit: Mysteries, Monsters, and the Macabre

Fall is coming to campus! Leaves will be changing color, there will be a crisp cool breeze and longer nights, and Halloween is right around the corner! To help you get into the mood for the spooky season visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore our latest exhibit in Special Collections and University Archives titled Mysteries, Monsters, and the Macabre.

Mysteries, monsters and the macabre have plagued our minds for millennia. Medieval creatures lurking in the depths of the sea. Ghastly gothic tales of murderous guilt. An unexplainable 15th century code rumored to provide the key to immortality. Memorializing the dead with plaster casts. A curious purple vampire with a compulsive urge to count all he sees. These are a few of the intriguing stories you’ll uncover when literature, folklore, and history converge in the Special Collections exhibit Mysteries, Monsters, and the Macabre.

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The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: A is for…

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980) is a celebrated Modernist writer who has a big presence in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland. Today we’re kicking off a new series of blog posts that will introduce you to Porter’s life and works using the ABCs.

A new letter will be posted each week, so stay tuned!

A is for Abels!

Cyrilly Abels (1903-1975) was a long time friend and agent of Katherine Anne Porter. The pair met when Porter wrote a story for Mademoiselle magazine, where Abels was the managing editor for more than a decade. Porter enjoyed writing the for the magazine because Abels wasn’t rigid in her requests. Porter had creative freedom to write fiction or nonfiction on any subject she liked and deadlines weren’t an issue. Abels gladly accepted a piece when it was completed and paid Porter well for her contributions. 

Porter highly distrusted agents, editors, and businessmen in the literary world. However, in 1962 when Abels set out on her own as a literary agent, Porter immediately became a client. Abels understood Porter’s writing habits and artistic temperament better than most. As an agent, Abels helped coordinate appearances, manage contracts, and act as a filter between for Porter and the publishing industry. She strongly advocated for Porter’s work to receive the recognition and remuneration it deserved. 

Abels acted as confidant as well, giving pep-talks to boost Porter’s morale. It wasn’t uncommon for the pair to go long stretches without seeing one another. So, their friendship was built through correspondence, talking about all manner of things, but especially gardening and fashion. Abels would send baskets of flowers to let Porter know she was thinking about her or even gift Porter money when she was in need. Paul Porter recalled his aunt’s relationship with her agent, writing “Cyrilly Abels was [one of] two people in her long life KAP never said an unkind word about, or tolerated one.”

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

Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and the Cyrilly Abels papers to learn more about their relationship! Schedule an appointment to visit the reading room in Hornbake Library to explore the collections in person.


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.

Exhibition Extended: Get Out the Vote

We are excited to announce the extension of our gallery exhibition Get Out The Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America through August 2023. Get Out The Vote highlights the history of suffrage in America and specifically the fight for the right to vote for women and African Americans. 

With the upcoming midterm elections, we hope that Get Out The Vote will inspire visitors to exercise their right to vote as well as illustrate the history of the expansion and contraction of voting rights. Get a sneak peek by visiting the online exhibition.

To learn about voting in early Maryland, the work of grassroots organizations, the unsteady progress toward greater enfranchisement, and more, visit us Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm in the Hornbake Library gallery. To visit outside these hours or inquire about a personalized tour, contact us!


Post by Clio Reid, volunteer
McGill University, 2023

Featured Collections: League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters is a national, non-partisan and grassroots organization striving to expand voting rights and get all people mobilized to vote. The League was founded shortly after the passage of the nineteenth amendment granting women the vote.

Article about the League of Women Voters

In 1921, the Women’s Suffrage League of Maryland affiliated with the recently formed League of Women Voters of the United States. The non-partisan organization has, throughout its history, focused on a number of causes helping to shape American history. In particular, the League has been interested in elections and voting, women’s rights, education, child labor, collective bargaining, food and drug legislation, housing, the Poll Tax, civil rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment. In addition to these concerns, the local Leagues have been interested in local issues, including redistricting and reapportionment, state taxes and expenditures, the Maryland constitution, and state and local election laws, balanced local development, improvement of health services, and the establishment of juvenile correctional facilities, busing, urban planning and zoning, transportation, housing, public health, public safety, voter services, and environmental quality.

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Featured Collection: The Committee on Political Education

The AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) was founded in 1955 to encourage workers to participate in political life. COPE conducted research into legislative issues and politicians, organized grass-roots mobilization efforts to track the voting records of state and local legislators, interviewed and screened candidates running for office, and made endorsement recommendations to the AFL-CIO. COPE also worked directly with candidates for political office by providing financial contributions to those supportive of worker’s rights.

COPE representative talking to two people in front of a COPE poster that says "Give a buck to COPE"

Focusing on union members and their families, COPE led registration drives, prepared public relations and education campaigns, and created and distributed publications about candidates and their positions on the issues affecting workers’ lives, such as health care, pension benefits, and safe working conditions.

The materials consists of correspondence, voting statistics, printed materials, and clippings pertaining to election campaigns, politicians, and political issues. While COPE may have compiled voting statistics and published some of the printed material, this collection contains mostly secondary material issued by others and collected by office staff.

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A Life in Letters: Katherine Anne Porter Digitization Continues!

We are excited to be back in action, kicking off phase 4 of the Katherine Anne Porter correspondence digitization project! Porter was an award winning author best known for her short stories, including Pale Horse, Pale Rider and her full length novel Ship of Fools. In 1966 Porter donated her literary archive to Special Collections at the University of Maryland, where a room was created in her honor. Now housed on the first floor of Hornbake Library, the Katherine Anne Porter room showcases book, photos, furniture, and memorabilia collected during her life.

Katherine Anne Porter talking with R. Lee Hornbake at the dedication of the original Katherine Anne Porter room in McKeldin library, May 15, 1968
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The Visual Culture of Labor in the 1930s: A Visit to the George Meany Labor Archive

On February 8 and 10, 2022, the twelve students in ARTH488D: Mining the Visual Culture of the Great Depression visited the University of Maryland’s Special Collections to explore 1930s materials from the George Meany Labor Archive. Students leafed through folders of original documents and photographs, and worked together to select and analyze a key primary source of their choosing. Our goal was to ask what we could learn from these materials– especially their visual form–about how people experienced the economic crisis and labor struggles of the Depression era. Please enjoy our explorations below!

“No Help Wanted”

This cartoon from a periodical clipping from 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression, shows a man looking at a sign that reads “NO HELP WANTED”. He appears to be sad and dejected. A connection between the viewer and the figure in the image can be made by the way they are both reading the sign at the same time. The figure’s back is turned, directing the viewer’s eyes to the message, while also noticing his posture which shows emotions of dejection, tiredness, and worry. This item creates feelings of sympathy and sadness for the figure and feelings of wanting to help and support him. This image appears to be reproduced in a magazine or pamphlet of sorts to encourage workers to take action in protest for better working conditions, job opportunities, wages, and so much more. We believe this image was intended to resonate with people affected by the crash of the Great Depression. Having the opportunity to look at this primary source allows us to further understand the struggles that working and lower-class citizens endured during a time period of limited jobs and low pay. #GreatDeressionVisualCulture #NoHelpWanted #RouseHimToAction

–Jessica and John

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