Katharina Theodora Olga Kippenberg, née von During, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the daughter of a wealthy merchant family. In 1903, she went to the University of Leipzig to attend lectures in philosophy, literature, and history as a guest student because women could not enroll in German universities in those days. In 1905, she met and married Anton Kippenberg, head of the Insel Verlag publishing house, with whom she had two daughters. She went to work for Insel Verlag as an editor. She focused on advancing the work of the firm's young German poets, particularly Rainer Maria Rilke, who became her close friend. She wrote his biography in 1935. During World War I, in the absence of her husband, she ran Insel Verlag. An the end of the war, her husband returned to his job and Katharine began working with British and American authors such as Aldous Huxley and Virginia Woolf. In 1922, she was made a partner in the firm. Her work and other activities as a mother and social hostess took their toll, and she suffered frequent bouts of illness and depression. Insel Verlag's offices were destroyed and the Kippenberg home badly damaged in Allied bombing raids in 1944 during World War War II. However, the famous Kippenberg family collection of Goethe first editions, letters, and portraits survived and later entered the Goethe Museum in Düsseldorf. Near the end of her life, Katharina worked on her last book, Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets about Orpheus.