Wednesday, February 5, 2014

America the Beautiful...and the diverse

There's been lots of controversy about the Coca-Cola Company's recent Super Bowl commercial, "America is Beautiful". I'm sure you've seen it. The commercial is filled with clips from all over the country, starring everyday people in this big melting pot we call home. The controversy apparently comes from the fact the song is sung not entirely in English. Instead parts are sung in Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, and other languages. (For the record I think it rocks because let's face it kiddos 1. America the Beautiful is NOT the National Anthem 2. Unless you are 100 percent belonging to a specific tribe of Native Americans, we're all children of immigrants and 3. It was just plain beautiful. So there) Because I like to the stir the (melting) pot a bit - see what I did there?? - the topic for today's blog is the woman who wrote America the Beautiful.  Katharine Lee Bates. 

Katharine was born August 12, 1859 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and was the daughter of a Congregation pastor William Bates and Cornelia Frances Lee. Katharine was a smart cookie having graduated from Wellesly College in 1880. She went on to teach high school until 1893 (The same year Queen Liliu'okalani was overthrown remember?) before returning to Wellesly as an instructor.

She is well known for her children's books, travel books, and volumes of poetry. She also wrote the lyrics to America the Beautiful. She helped to popularize Mrs. Claus as well in a series of poems. One is called Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride. She contributed to periodicals like the Atlantic Monthly, The Congregationalist, and others. She was a lifelong, active Republican until 1924 when she switched parties to endorse John Davis instead of Woodrow Wilson. She spent the better part of her life as writer, teacher, and activist.

Bates died in Wellesly, Mass on September 28, 1929.

Now the 'controversial' part of her life. I put it in quotes because I know that in some circles it will be considered so. For me...not so much.

Bates never 'married' but lived with Katharine Coman, a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesly College Economics department, for 25 years until Coman's death in 1915. That's right, dirty birdies, the writer of America the Beautiful was gay. Suddenly all the bologna about the song not being sung in English in the commercial doesn't seem as big of a deal does it? (Not that is was really that big of a deal)

So there go. Feel free to run out and tell some of those cranky-butt complainers and see what happens...oh...and sing when you do. (I'm voting for heads to explode. Because that's how I am)

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