Kate Chopin Biography + comments on her writing.

Essay by lauralist November 2002

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Kate Chopin

Katherine O'Flaherty Chopin was born February 8, 1850 in St. Louis, MO. The daughter of an Irish father and a French Creole mother, the O'Flaherty's were members of the creole social elite and were fairly well off. When Kate was very young, her father Thomas died in a work-related accident. He left behind a family of four generations of women all living in the same house. Kate was very close to her great-grandmother, Madame Charleville, who first introduced her to the world of storytelling. Madame Charleville spoke only french to Kate and told her elaborate stories.

At the age of 11, Madame Charleville died, and her half-brother George was killed while fighting in the Civil War for the Confederate side. Upset over this, Kate tore down a Union flag tied to her front porch by a Yankee soldier, earning her a reputation as the "Littlest Rebel" and becoming a local legend.

Kate studied both French and English literature in school and became an accomplished pianist. She attended many social events and became popular in high society. She was also very interested in women's suffrage, but never became active politically. At age 19, she married Oscar Chopin, a 25-year-old French-Creole businessman.

Oscar tolerated Kate's "unconventional" ways, even though relatives warned him not to. He treated Kate as an equal and did not mind that she smoked, drank, and behaved as her own person. After giving birth to six children, Kate became a widow in 1883 when her husband died of swamp fever. Oscar was a successful businessman, so Kate didn't worry about feeding her kids, she managed her husband's business for a year, then moved back to St. Louis. Her mother died the following year.

Kate began to study science, abandoned her Catholicism, started to write and publish.