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A professor and a poet, Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem "America the Beautiful." Her poem became the lyrics to the popular American ballad still enjoyed today.
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Bates included the work in her 1911 collection America the Beautiful and Other Poems. Two years later, however, Bates made more revisions.
Capturing the nation's majestic beauty and spirit, the poem became hugely popular. Its transformation to becoming a song was a gradual process. Many simply sang the words in the tune of a folk song,
such as "Auld Lang Syne." It later followed the melody of Samuel Augustus Ward's "Materna." A contest was held in 1926 to create new music to set the poem to, but no strong candidates prevailed. Instead "Materna" became the standard melody still used today.
While she is largely remembered for "America the Beautiful," Bates only published a handful of poetry collections in her lifetime. Yellow Clover: A Book of Remembrance, one of her most recognized collections today, was actually published privately in 1922. Bates wrote this set of sonnets to honor her love Katharine Coman. She and Coman, both been professors at Wellesley, lived together for roughly 25 years. Bates was heartbroken over Coman's death in 1915.
Bates retired from Wellesley in 1925. The following year, she published her final collection of poems in The Pilgrim Ship.
Katharine Lee Bates died on March 28, 1929, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Shortly after her death, there was an effort made to establish "America the Beautiful" as the nation's anthem. The song, however, lost out to "The Star-Spangled Banner." Still, Bates's moving lyrics hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans. Over the years, the song has been recorded by such artists as Ray Charles, Blake Shelton and Frank Sinatra.
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