Having witnessed many struggles for political power and extremism in different forms around the world, Katherine Anne Porter felt strongly that democracy was a privilege not to be taken for granted. As such, she felt every citizen had a responsibility to get involved in politics by writing to government officials, campaigning, and voting in every election.
In the mid 1950’s, Porter’s opinions on U.S. politics can be found in her correspondence and writings. Referring to the political parties in America, she writes: “Republicans appeal to the basest thing in human nature- fear and hatred of unfamiliar ideas, its resentment of the existence of any breeding or intellect superior to their own.” Porter much preferred the openness of the Democratic party, which she wrote: “has always been by definition low-brow, and God knows we are a wonderful grab-bag of samples from every walk of life, every degree of intelligence, every sort of origin; its a party meant for everybody who wants to go along, nobody inquires about his brains or his worldly accomplishments; if he has got sense enough to register, he is free to vote. This is democracy, in one of its manifestations, whether you like it or not. I happen to like it thoroughly.”
In a letter to John F. Kennedy, Porter wrote, “I found a long time ago that one need not always know who a man’s friends are, but a good look at his enemies helps much in forming a notion of his character and motives.” This idea drove Porter’s involvement in the Democratic Party. Thanks to her proximity to Washington, D.C., Porter was often invited to events at the White House. She attended Kennedy’s inauguration, served on an art commission for LBJ, and more. After Porter’s passing, First-Lady Laura Bush helped with the dedication of Porter’s Texas home into a museum.
You can explore digitized letters by Katherine Anne Porter’s online in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.
Browse the finding aid to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about Porter!
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.