Kate Chopin 1850-1904
Born Kate O’Flaherty in St. Louis in 1850 • Conservative Southern Family. • Water front and Southern city. • Place of cultural and political intersections. • Strong maternal French lineage. • Graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1868. • Curriculum geared toward modesty and submission.
Becomes a St. Louis debutant and marries Oscar Chopin in 1870. • Move to New Orleans which was culturally split between French Creoles and the “Americans.” • Creole ancestry: mixture of French, Spanish, and African culture. • Chopin takes in this culture.
Chopin spent her summers at Grand Isle, a resort in the Gulf established by and popular with Creoles. • They move to the rural Cloutierville in 1879 before her 30th birthday. • Kate’s sophistication from New Orleans translates to flirtatiousness and independence in the gossip of this community.
Oscar dies in 1882 of malaria. • Kate is left with six children, debt, and a struggling family store to run. • Has an affair with a local, Albert Sampite. • Returns to St. Louis in 1884 to be with her mother and befriends a number of intellectual, liberal thinkers. • She starts to write and publish full-time.
Writes poetry, fiction, and short fiction. • Her collection Bayou Folk (1894) puts her on the literary map as a local color artist. • A Night in Acadie (1897), a daring and boundary-pushing work, reveals her interest in women and their inner desires and gives her favorable critical reviews.
The Awakening, originally titled A Solitary Soul, is published in 1899. • Chopin and her novel were rebuked by the press for Edna’s behavior. • It was called “shocking,” “sickening,” and “poison.” • Her public writing career is essentially ended by its publication, and she is taken off the literary map. • What a shame! It is a pioneer novel; it merges 3 traditions of women writers: domestic fiction, local color, and New Women writers.
She remained active in St. Louis society and received much support, contrary to early critical reports, from residents of the city. • Kate Chopin died in 1904 of a brain hemorrhage. • She is recovered by feminist scholars in the 1970s after 1969 publication of The Complete Works of Kate Chopin.