Katharine Sergeant White
Biography of Katharine Sergeant White
Katharine Sergeant Angell White (September 17, 1892 – July 20, 1977) was a writer and the fiction editor for The New Yorker magazine from 1925 to 1960. In her obituary, printed in The New Yorker in 1977, William Shawn wrote that "More than any other editor except Harold Ross himself, Katharine White gave The New Yorker its shape, and set it on its course."
White graduated fourth in the Bryn Mawr College class of 1914. She began working for Harold Ross at The New Yorker in 1925, six months after its inception. She started out reading unsolicited manuscripts for two hours a day, then quickly moved to full-time work. She proved indispensable as an editor, writer, and shaper of the magazine's advertising policy. She was an extremely literate, elegant, and cultivated woman whom James Thurber described as "the fountain and shrine of The New Yorker."
In 1929, she left her first husband, a lawyer, and married a younger man, a young writer she had recommended be hired by Ross, E. B. White. They were both back at work at The New Yorker the next day. After her second marriage, she became known as Katharine S. White.
White was widely known as a woman of integrity. She also had a refined sense of good taste which showed in her deft handling of verse, profiles, and casuals. She served as The New Yorker's first head of fiction and helped form the magazine into the literary giant it is today.
As well as being wife of E. B. White, she was the mother (from her first marriage) of a son, writer Roger Angell, and daughter, Nancy Angell Stableford. Roger Angell has spent decades as a fiction editor for The New Yorker and is well known as the magazine's baseball writer. Her other son, Joel White, was a naval architect and boatbuilder who owned Brooklin Boatyard in Brooklin, Maine.
White originally wrote under the name Katharine Sergeant Angell. Her only published book (as Katharine White), titled Onward and Upward in the Garden, was published after her death. It is a compilation of her garden articles and journals. Horticulture magazine states, "Although she never claimed to be more than an amateur, her pieces, especially her famous surveys of garden catalogs, are remarkable for their fierce intelligence and crisp prose." Her husband credits this book project with saving his own life after her death, as it gave him her words every day, and something to work on after she had died.