Katherine Kurz Burton was born near Cleveland, Ohio around 1887 and was educated in schools there. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Western Reserve University, she taught school for a year in a Pennsylvania mining town. Her classes were German, Latin, Greek and geology (a subject she had never studied), and her youngest pupil was twenty—exactly her own age. The following year she married Harry Payne Burton. A difficult marriage eventually led to separation.
While raising their three children Mrs. Burton developed her skill as a writer. She had already had experience as associate editor of McCall’s and later of Redbook. In 1930 she converted to the Catholic Church. Within the next few years she began a column called “Woman to Woman” in the Catholic journal The Sign. This column ran for 36 years and established Katherine Burton as one of the first major Catholic woman journalists in the United States. Mrs. Burton advocated the importance of family life and motherhood, even when lived under difficult circumstances, as was often the case for women during the Depression years. Large families drew her interest and support; in addition, she championed the rewards of balancing work outside the home with family—for those women who could do so.
After writing a successful biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter, Rose Hawthorne (Sorrow Built a Bridge), Katherine wrote that since then, she had “just kept on writing books, and the subjects I want to write on are still too many for me to have time to do them all.” Poetry, short stories, and much else followed. Of her biographies she wrote:
I have kept almost entirely to the convert field...I have wanted to show how these good Americans became good Catholics and remained good Americans....
The method in which I write...is known as the fictional method [though] that is definitely a misnomer....Every word I put into quotation marks had been said by the person quoted—either in conversation or in a book by him or in letters or diaries....It has always seemed to me that there ought to be two books on every important man or woman—one for the scholarly...and [the other] should be the light readable life, such as I write. For most people are not scholars, and many of these converts, who are such fine examples for the rest of us, would just stay unread....So it is the lesser writers like myself who must write about them for the less scholarly readers like myself.” (from The Book of Catholic Authors, Series III, Walter Romig & Co.)
A few years before writing The Door of Hope, Mrs. Burton had written an adult biography of Katharine Drexel, The Golden Door, published in 1957 just two years after Katharine Drexel’s death.
Mrs. Burton received the Christopher Award in 1959. She continued writing in the 1960’s, stating that her nine grandchildren *acted as “junior critics of their grandmother’s work.” She died in 1969.