Katharine Lee Bates: Songwriter

Katherine_Lee_Bates_edited-1When: 1859 – 1929

Where: Lived briefly in Colorado Springs

Why Important: Wrote “America the Beautiful”

Colorado College circa 1880-1900
(Credit: Denver Public Library)


Katharine Lee Bates only spent one summer living in Colorado, but that year she wrote the words to one of the United States’ most famous patriotic songs, “America the Beautiful.”1 At the time she wrote the song, in 1893, she was living in Colorado Springs teaching English at Colorado College. The words, particularly the phrase “purple mountain majesty,” are said to have been inspired by Bates’ stay in Colorado.

Bates was born in Massachusetts and she attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1880 at a time when very few colleges were open to women. Later, Bates taught English at Wellesley for many years. Aside from writing songs, she also wrote poetry, children’s stories, and travel books.2 Bates lived the rest of her life in Massachusetts and died there on March 28, 1929. In 1957, an elementary school in Colorado Springs was named in her honor, and in 1970, Bates was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1859 to Jan. 1, 1929

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