Kate Thomas

Katrina “Kate” Thomas, American poet and essayist, was born on July 2, 1873 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her mother, Caroline Stockdale Thomas, was a homemaker, and her father, Richard Kendall, was a retailer and former choreographer for the Salt Lake Theater, an institution that he continued to support throughout Thomas’s childhood. While biographical information about this time is sparse, Thomas’s unpublished journals (many of which have been preserved through the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts) suggest that she worked at the family store, enjoyed the theatrical arts alongside her father, and was present when Richard Kendall had the family barn remodeled into Salt Lake City’s first “little” theater, The Barnacle. 

Thomas attended the LDS Business College and the University of Deseret, which would be renamed the University of Utah in 1894. After graduating, Thomas continued writing for several publications, including the University Chronicleas well as two LDS venues for young women, The Relief Society Magazine and the Young Woman’s Journal. Here, Thomas would publish essays and poems for the rest of her career. While her work rarely raised feminist concerns directly, they also never advocated for women’s subservience or “natural” place in the domestic sphere. Thomas herself lived independently, never marrying and traveling about both the US and Europe frequently from 1901 onward. She lived in the Greenwich Village area of New York City for several years, where she participated in spiritual self-discovery and political activism while still actively writing for LDS venues. 

Thomas’s work draws from – and does not always balance between – the writing conventions expected of young LDS women in her time, as well as subject matter that would have been deemed unusual. These conflicting interests resulted in an oeuvre that includes moral and educational essays, plays, inspirational poetry celebrating Utah and Mormonism, and personal poetry. Thomas began writing the latter at the age of nineteen while attending the LDS Business College, keeping a private journal in which she wrote “love poetry” almost exclusively addressed to other women. In her poetry, Thomas often treats with unrequited love, explored sensual and passionate descriptions, and offered first person addresses, often to other women. Scholars also point to Thomas’s recurring use of the term “gay” in her poetry, noting that while most of the US public and literary mainstream were not using this term as a synonym for queerness at the turn of the century, Thomas would have certainly encountered that usage in Greenwich Village, and so made this choice consciously. Researchers, historiographers, and other poets have recently demonstrated great interest in historicizing Thomas and her work among other LBGTQ+ Mormons as well as other American writers of her time. 

Thomas’s body of work also included plays and guides to achieving what Thomas called "complete Yoga consciousness,” a practice she would have first encountered during her time in New York. Many of these works have not survived, but several of her poems have been preserved, and more recently made available, through Brigham Young University’s ongoing digitization of the Young Woman’s Journal and The Relief Society Magazine

Thomas’s political activity included participation in local "Peace Meetings" at the outbreak of WWI, and after the war’s conclusion, open campaigning in support of the establishment of the League of Nations. She later returned to Utah as a patron of the arts and local theater, and published fewer works as she grew older. Thomas died in Salt Lake City on March 3, 1950. 

Bibliography

Short Stories

  • "Pietro's Inspiration," Young Woman's Journal, 1899

Poetry

  • "For Alice," The Relief Society Magazine, 1930
  • "For Christmas [2]," The Relief Society Magazine, 1930
  • "Domremy's Maid," The Relief Society Magazine, 1929
  • "Sunflowers," The Relief Society Magazine, 1929
  • "At Cedar Breaks," The Relief Society Magazine, 1926
  • "For Christmas [1]," The Relief Society Magazine, 1922
  • "Who is My Loved One?" The Relief Society Magazine, 1922
  • "The Grandmother Muses," The Relief Society Magazine, 1921
  • "Little Silver Mother, or To President Emmeline B. Wells: On Her Eighty-Ninth Birthday and Her Recovery From a Grave Illness," The Relief Society Magazine, 1917
  • "Irish Love Song," Young Woman's Journal, 1900
  • "Song [2]," Young Woman's Journal, 1900
  • "At Christmastime," Young Woman's Journal, 1899
  • "Dutch Lullaby," Young Woman's Journal, 1899
  • "If I Had Time," Young Woman's Journal, 1899
  • "Song [1]," Young Woman's Journal, 1899

Links

Kate Thomas Papers