Katherine Wright, (August 19, 1874 – March 3, 1929; Leo/Hera) was a woman who sacrificed her life for others. It wasn’t until the last few years of her life that she was finally able to have true love, her own life and this was at the cost of her brother abandoning her. Her story is one of dedication to the two famous Wright brothers, Orville and Wilber but also to their lesser known father Bishop Milton Wright.
A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, she began her work as a teacher in the classroom. Constantly having positions kept from her, as it appeared her future destiny was being prepared for her. At the same time, her brothers were creating their airplane empire, trying to prove they could make a plane fly and then trying to prove to others it did.
Katherine’s family were very close knit with German ancestry. She had lost her mother Susan, at the age of 15. In those times, a woman’s place was meant to devote herself to family first and career and life need’s second. As the only woman left in the household, her future was to take care of the men left behind.
At one point, her brother’s had need of her and at that time, her position had been put aside at the school. She went off to Europe to take care of her brother’s publicity concerns and her fate appeared to be sealed. She would continue to go back and forth from brothers to father, and an attempt to return to teaching before she would stay devoted to Orville for quite some time.
The father and brother Wilbur would eventually die and she and Orville continued becoming closer and closer. It wasn’t until a college friend returned to her life, someone she had not known had held a secret love for her. Henry Joseph Haskell, now a widower, would eventually marry Katherine after about a year of courtship on November 20, 1926. Orville did not give his blessings nor would he allow Katherine to even marry in their own home.
Katherine and Henry moved to Kansas City, Missouri where they would spend the next couple of years in a marital bond. It wasn’t until she was on her deathbed that Orville returned to say goodbye one last time.
For purposes of gathering information on Ms. Wright, I turned to the only biography that I was able to find by Richard Maurer. This book entitled “The Wright Sister: Katherine Wright and her Famous Brothers,” is full of wonderful photos, and includes the details of the brother’s journey to aeronautical fame. I was struck by her story and how much it reminded me of so many stories and movies about people who have had to sacrifice so much of themselves before being able to have exactly what they wanted. Unfortunately, that yearning for their own life, their ability to have a sense of self, freedom and independence ends to quickly once gained.
Too many women have had to give up in the past, present and undoubtedly in the future as this is part of our nature to be nurturing and loving to others. Not to say men have not done this as well but this is Ohio Women’s History.