Spade was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, the daughter of June (Mullen) and Francis (Frank) Brosnahan, who owned a road-construction company. She was of mostly Irish descent. After graduating from St. Teresa's Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school, Spade attended the University of Kansas. She transferred to Arizona State University, where she joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and graduated with a journalism degree in 1985.
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