KATHARINE LEE BATES, American poet (b. 1859) died on this date; The author of the words to the anthem “America the Beautiful,” Bates was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The daughter of a Congregational pastor, she graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and for many years was a professor of English literature at Wellesley. While teaching there, she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics for which she also studied.
Bates lived at Wellesley with Katharine Coman, who herself was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College Economics department. The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Coman’s death in 1915. These arrangements were sometimes called “Boston marriages” or “Wellesley marriages”. The 1999 play Boston Marriage by David Mamet depicts such a marriage as having an explicitly sexual component. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to allow legal same-sex marriages, which made Boston the only major city in the U.S. at the time where a “Boston marriage” could also be a legal marriage, if the couple wished it to be. Now, of course, that’s all history. Let’s hope it stays that way.