Burton, Katherine Kurz

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BURTON, Katherine Kurz

Born March 1890, Cleveland, Ohio; died 22 September 1969, Bronxville, New York

Daughter of John and Louise Bittner Kurz; married Harry P.Burton, 1910

After graduating from Western Reserve University and teaching for a year in rural Pennsylvania, Katherine Kurz Burton married a journalist and editor in 1910. From this point forward she devoted herself to freelance writing and, for a short period, to magazine editing.

From 1928 to 1930 Burton served as associate editor of McCall's, and from 1930 to 1933 she worked at Redbook. On the basis of this experience, in 1935 she was invited to edit a women's page for Sign, a Catholic monthly; according to the editor, it was the magazine's most popular feature. Some of these pieces are collected in Woman to Woman (1961).

Burton was a prolific writer. Her essays and poems were published in many religious periodicals, first Episcopalian and, after her reception into the Roman Catholic church in 1930, in Roman Catholic magazines. Her verse, light but controlled, also appeared in F. P. Adams's "Conning Tower" in the New York Herald Tribune, some examples of which are included in her autobiographical The Next Thing (1949).

Burton did her most important work in the field of popular biography, a genre she pioneered only after her entrance into the Roman Catholic church. Her first book, Sorrow Built a Bridge (1937), which remained a favorite with both the author and her readers, narrates the life of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, the youngest child of Nathaniel Hawthorne. With her husband, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop became a Roman Catholic. After being widowed, she formed a Dominican community devoted to the care of poor and incurable victims of cancer.

Other biographies of converts followed; Burton chose for these early works native-born Americans, usually of New England birth and upbringing, in an attempt to show that good Americans could be good Catholics. Because Burton had been attracted to the Roman Catholic church for its "continuity of doctrine," she often chose as subjects converts with similar motivations. In her conversion narratives there is little tendency to denigrate other churches, for Burton was greatly moved by charitable works undertaken by any faith. Her books, however, are clearly intended to edify a Catholic readership, and their appeal outside this communion has been limited.

The style of informal biography which Burton developed was reviewed with qualified praise by such scholars as Theodore Maynard and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Burton made no attempt, however, to be exhaustive or to document her sources, and she did little archival research. Burton was sensitive, however, to the charge that her stories were "fictional." Her biographies included dialogue, but she insisted that, except for feed lines, any words within quotation marks were taken from letters, diaries, books, or conversations.

Burton's success in avoiding the piety and sentimentality of older biography was uneven. Much of the appeal of her earlier books lay in their portrayal of well-known figures, i.e., the Concord literary circles with which the Hawthornes associated, or the Brook Farm group. Such literary figures also provided Burton with considerable material for the construction of dialogue. Many of her later books, however, portrayed Catholic women who inhabited a less intellectual and more pious world; Burton's life of Mother Butler of Marymount (1944), for example, was criticized in Commonweal as "sugar-coated and iced over."

Burton had strong feminist leanings, and she did not conceal the problems of women confronting male Catholic structures. According to the Pattern (1946) is the story of Cardinal Manning's efforts to get a young woman admitted to medical school. It focuses on the Catholic woman's long struggle to convince Vatican authorities that nuns should not be forbidden to become doctors.

Other Works:

Paradise Planters (1939). His Dear Persuasion (1940). In No Strange Land (1942). Brother Andre of Mount Royal (1943). Celestial Homespun (1943). No Shadow of Turning (1944). His Mercy Endureth Forever (1946). Difficult Star (1947). Three Generations (1947). Mightily and Sweetly (1948). Chaminade, Apostle of Mary (1949). So Surely Anchored (1949).The Great Mantle (1950). Feast Day Cookbook (with H. Ripperger, 1951). Where There Is Love (1951). The Table of the King (1952). Whom Love Impels (1952). So Much, So Soon (1953). Children's Shepherd (1954). The Stars Beyond the Storms (1954). In Heaven We Shall Rest (1955). My Beloved to Me (1957). The Golden Door (1957). Lily and Sword and Crown (1958). With God and Two Ducats (1958). Witness of the Light (1958). Faith Is the Substance (1959). Make the Way Known (1959). Cry Jubilee! (1960). The Dream Lives Forever (1960). One Thing Needful (1960). Wheat for This Planting (1960). Leo the Thirteenth (1962). The Door of Hope (1963). The Bernardines (1964). Bells on Two Rivers (1965). Valiant Voyager (1965).


Black Friars (March 1938). CathLibW (Feb. 1944). CHR (Oct. 1939, Oct. 1944). CW (1943, 19 March 1946). NEQ (Sept. 1943).


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