“America the Beautiful” was written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), Chair of the English Department at Wellesley College, in 1893. That was just a few years after she began a relationship with Katharine Coman. Bates lived with Coman for twenty-five years, until Coman’s death in 1915.
After Katharine Coman died, Bates published a volume of verses as a tribute to their love.
If You Could Come
My love, my love, if you could come once more
From your high place,
I would not question you for heavenly lore,
But, silent, take the comfort of your face.
I would not ask you if those golden spheres
In love rejoice,
If only our stained star hath sin and tears,
But fill my famished hearing with your voice.
One touch of you were worth a thousand creeds.
My wound is numb
Through toil-pressed, but all night long it bleeds
In aching dreams, and still you cannot come.
Whenever you hear “America the Beautiful,” remember that it was written by a lesbian, and remember that nearly 120 years later, LGBTs still don’t have equality in their own beautiful country.