With Independence Day not that far back in the rearview mirror, the strains of patriotic tunes are probably still fresh in your mind. One of my favorites is the Ray Charles recording of "America the Beautiful," a song deeply connected to Massachusetts.

"America the Beautiful" was written by Katharine Lee Bates, a professor and writer from Falmouth, Massachusetts, born on August 12, 1859.

Bates' father died when she was just weeks old, and she was raised by her mother and an aunt.

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The National Park Service (NPS) wrote, "Well-educated women themselves, they (Bates' mother and aunt) sent Bates to high school and then to Wellesley College." Bates graduated from Wellesley in 1880 and began teaching nearby.

A noted writer of children's poetry and storybooks, Bates used prize money won to fund a trip to England, where she studied at Oxford University for two years. Upon her return to Massachusetts in 1891, Bates became a professor of English literature at Wellesley College, where she earned a master's degree.

In the summer of 1893, Bates taught English at the Colorado Summer School in Colorado Springs. The NPS stated Bates and several teacher friends climbed Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains in a wagon pulled by a mule.

Upon returning to her hotel, Bates wrote the first draft of a poem that would become the song "America the Beautiful."

"From her perch on top of one of the 'purple mountain majesties,' Bates was able to look out over the prairie grasses and wheat fields of  Kansas," the NPS wrote. "She memorialized them in her song as 'amber waves of grain."

Bates was involved in a committed relationship with Katharine Coman for almost three decades. Coman was a professor of history at Wellesley College. The couple shared a home in Wellesley.

Katharine Lee Bates died on March 28, 1929, in Wellesley. She was 69.

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Bates is buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Falmouth, Massachusetts. A statue of her stands outside of the Falmouth Public Library.

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