Katherine Wright (1874 - 1929)

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Birthplace: Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, United States
Death: Died in Montgomery Cnty, Ohio
Managed by: Robert Eggleston Gibson
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Katherine Wright

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Wright

Katharine Wright (August 19, 1874 – March 3, 1929) was the only sister of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, and was very supportive of the brothers in their quest to perfect manned flight.

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Katharine Wright (August 19, 1874 – March 3, 1929) was the only sister of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. She was a high school teacher and later became an international celebrity when she accompanied her famous brothers in Europe.

Early years

Born August 19, 1874, exactly three years after Orville, Katharine was the only surviving girl of Milton and Susan Koerner Wright. She was especially close to Wilbur and Orville, and when their mother died in 1889, she took on responsibility for the household.

She graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio, and took a position at Steele High School in Dayton. To help with the household chores, she hired a maid, Carrie Kayler, who remained with the family for decades.

When Wilbur and Orville began spending time away from home at Kitty Hawk and later in Europe and Washington, D.C., Katharine constantly wrote to them, keeping them abreast of family and hometown news. She sometimes scolded them when they didn't regularly send correspondence, and warned them of 'distractions' when in Europe.

In 1908, after nearly three years of trying, the brothers convinced the U.S. Signal Corps to allow them to test their Flyer for possible sale to the government. Orville was the pilot for the demonstrations. After a week of successful and record breaking flights, disaster struck on September 17, 1908. A broken propeller sent the airplane out of control. The crash killed the passenger, Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, and seriously injured Orville, who suffered broken ribs and a broken leg. Katharine immediately went to his bedside at an Army Hospital in northern Virginia, and rarely left his room during Orville's seven week recuperation. She took emergency leave from her teaching job and was never to return.

Celebrity

Wilbur asked Katharine to go to France with Orville, and in 1909 they joined him in Pau. She quickly dominated the social scene, being far more outgoing and charming than the notoriously shy brothers. French newspapers were fascinated by what they saw as the human side of the Wrights. Rumors began to circulate as to Katharine's importance in the invention of the Wright Flyer. Some myths—such as her funding of the experiments, or sewing the wing coverings or help with math needed to design the aeroplane--lived on, despite strenuous denials by her and the brothers at the time. She was awarded, along with Wilbur and Orville, the Legion d'honneur, making her one of the only women from the U.S. to receive it.

When they returned to Dayton, Ohio, all three siblings were huge celebrities, and Katharine took on business responsibilities, becoming an officer of the Wright Company in 1912 after Wilbur died. The company was sold in 1915 by Orville.

Upheaval and her new life

In 1917, their father Milton died, three years after he, Katharine, Orville, and Charles and Carrie Kayler Grumbach moved to Hawthorn Hill, a newly-constructed mansion in the Dayton suburb of Oakwood. Orville became increasingly dependent on Katharine. She looked after his social schedule, correspondence and business engagements along with his secretary, Mabel Beck, and ran the household as before.

Marriage, heartbreak and death

In the 1920s, Katharine renewed correspondence with an old boyfriend from college days, newspaperman Henry Haskell, a widower who lived in Kansas City. They began a romance through their letters, but Katharine feared Orville's reaction. After several attempts, Henry broke the news to Orville. He was devastated, and stopped speaking to his sister. When Katharine wed in 1926, Orville refused to attend the ceremony. Katharine and her husband moved to Kansas City, but she grieved over her broken relationship with Orville. She tried many times for a reconciliation, but Orville refused.

Two years after her marriage, Katharine contracted pneumonia. When Orville found out, he still refused to contact her. Their brother Lorin persuaded him to visit her, and he was at her bedside when she died. She was 54 years old.

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Sister of the Wright brothers, she is best remembered for her caring for her brothers and with helping them organize their business. Born August 19, 1874, exactly three years after Orville, Katharine was the only surviving girl born to Milton and Susan Koerner Wright. She was especially close to Wilbur and Orville, and when her mother died it became her responsibility to take over the household, seemingly ending any prospects of marriage. Despite her new responsibilities, she finished her studies in Oberlin College in Ohio, and took a position in Steele High School in Dayton. To help with the chores, she hired a maid, Carrie Kayler, although she was always under Katharine's shadow. Katharine constantly wrote to her brothers, keeping them abreast of all news at home and reassuring them during their darkest days. She often scolded Orville and Wilbur when they didn't regularly send correspondence, and warned them of 'distractions' when in Europe. In 1908, after many years of trying, the brothers convinced the U.S. Signal Corps to allow them to test their Flyer for possible sale to the government. Orville was the pilot that day, however after a few successful trials, disaster struck as the plane crashed, killing Wright's passenger and seriously injuring himself. With Wilbur in France, Katharine immediately went to Washington D.C., taking emergency leave from the school. She was never to return. Wilbur asked Kate to come over to France with Orville, and in 1909 they joined him in Pau. Forever the organiser, she quickly dominated the social scene, herself being far more outgoing and charming than the notoriously shy brothers. The French newspapers were fascinated by what they saw as the human side of the Wrights, and it was then that rumors began to circulate as to her importance in the invention of the Wright Flyer. Indeed, to this day many of these myths - such as her funding of the experiments, her sewing of the wing coverings or help with the math needed to design the aeroplane - still live on, despite strenuous denials by both herself and the brothers at the time. The French though were not to be dissuaded, and she was awarded, along with Wilbur and Orville, the Legion d'honneur, making her one of the only women from the U.S. to receive it. When they returned to Dayton, Ohio, the family were huge celebrities, and as such Katharine took more of the business affairs on, becoming an officer of the Wright Company in 1912 after Wilbur died. The company was sold in 1915 by Orville. In 1917, their father Milton died, three years after he, Katharine, Orville, and Charles and Carrie Kayler Grumbach moved to Hawthorn Hill, a newly-constructed mansion in the Dayton suburb of Oakwood. With no one else to take care of him, Orville became more and more dependent on Kate, as his old injuries had him in severe pain. She looked after his correspondence and business engagements along with his secretary, Mabel Beck, and ran the household as before. In the 1920s, Kate began to renew correspondence with an old flame from her college days, a newspaperman named Henry Haskell, who lived in Kansas City. They quickly began a romance through their letters, but Kate was fearful of Orville's reaction to it as she was afraid he would become jealous, knowing herself that he couldn't survive without her. After several attempts, Henry broke the news to Orville. He was devastated, refusing to speak to the couple. When they finally wed in 1926, Orville refused to attend the ceremony, and wouldn't speak to them up until they moved to Kansas City. She was ridden with guilt for choosing Henry over her brother, and tried many times for a reconciliation, but Orville stubbornly refused. Two years after her marriage, Katharine contracted pneumonia. Even when Orville found out, he refused to contact her. It was their brother Lorin who eventually persuaded him to visit her on her deathbed, and was with her when she died. She was 54 years old. (bio by: VanMan)

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Katherine Wright's Timeline

1874
August 19, 1874
Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio, United States
1899
1899
Age 24
Kansas City?
1929
March 3, 1929
Age 54
Montgomery Cnty, Ohio
March, 1929
Age 54
Woodland Cemetery,Dayton,Ohio