Katherine O'Flaherty Chopin was born on July 12, 1850. She was the daughter of Thomas O'Flaherty, an immigrant Irish businessman, and Eliza Faris, a French Creole mother. When Kate was four, her father died in train accident. Her father was aboard a train while it crossed the Gasconade Bridge, which had collapsed. Her father's death left Kate without any male role models.
She lived with her widowed mother, widowed grandmother and widowed great-grandmother, Victoria Verdon Charleville. Charleville was an inspiration to Kate. She educated her in French, music, and introduced her to storytelling. She emphasized to Kate the need to live life "clearly and fearlessly." Charleville's mother was the first woman to be granted a divorce in St. Louis. Kate was devastated at the age of eleven when her great grandmother and half-brother, George, had died.
In 1868, she graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart with medals and awards.
She then met her husband, Oscar Chopin, a wealthy Creole cotton broker. In 1870, they married and moved to New Orleans. There, over a span of a decade, she gave birth to six children. In 1879, Oscar Chopin's cotton brokerage started to fail. Tragically, in 1882, he died of swamp fever and Kate was forced to support the family. She took over the business and plantation for a year.
After selling most of her property, she moved back to St. Louis with her family in 1884. Her mother, Eliza, died the year after leaving Kate, again, alone with her children. During these rough times, she sought help from her close friend, Dr. Frederick Kolbenheyer, whom encouraged her to write and publish. She became influenced by authors such as Guy de Maupassant, Daudet and Moliere. She wrote based on her experiences in New Orleans. The more she wrote, the more...