Biographical Information Born: February 8, 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri Birth Name: Catherine (Kate) O’Flaherty Father: Thomas O'Flaherty of County Galway, Ireland Mother: Eliza Faris of St. Louis—her family was originally from France, so Kate grew up speaking French and English
Biographical Information Education: Attended St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart from 1855-1868; spent one year at the Academy of the Visitation Influences: She was greatly influenced by the women in her life including her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, the nuns who taught her at school, and her lifelong friend Kitty Garasche’.
Biographical Information • Early Tragedies: • Her father was killed in a railroad accident in 1855. • Her beloved great-grandmother died in 1863. • Her half brother enlisted in the Confederate army during the Civil War, was captured by Union forces, and died from typhoid fever. • Marriage: Met Oscar Chopin of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana when she was 19; married in 1870
Oscar Chopin of Natchitoches, LA
Biographical Information Oscar and Kate settled in New Orleans, LA Oscar worked as a cotton factor (a person who sells cotton and other goods for the farmers to the people in more urban areas) Kate absorbed all New Orleans had to offer including music at the French Opera House, fine theater, horse races, and, of course, Mardi Gras.
Biographical Information As a wealthy family, the Chopins often vacationed on Grand Isle, a Creole resort in the Gulf of Mexico.
Biographical Information Oscar and Kate had six children between 1871 and 1879—five sons and one daughter: 1) Jean Baptiste 2) Oscar Charles 3) George Francis 4) Frederick 5) Felix Andrew 6) Marie Laiza (Lelia)
Biographical Information 1879: Because of tough financial times, Oscar closed his business and the Chopins moved to Cloutierville, LA, a French community in Natchitoches Parish. Oscar died in 1882 of malaria leaving Kate a widow at the age of 32. She never remarried.
Biographical Information Somewhere around 1884, Kate and her children returned to St. Louis. In 1885, Kate’s mother died. Barbara Ewell describes Kate this way: “…a remarkable, charming person. Not very tall, inclined to be plump, and quite pretty, she had thick, wavy brown hair that grayed prematurely, and direct, sparking brown eyes. Her friends remembered most her quiet manner and quick Irish wit, embellished with a gift for mimicry. A gracious, easygoing hostess, she enjoyed laughter, music, and dancing, but especially intellectual talk, and she could express her own considered opinions with surprising directness."
Biographical Information It was Kate’s obstetrician, Dr. Frederick Kolbenheyer, who encouraged her to become a writer. 1889-Kate’s first story was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. 1890-Kate’s first novel At Fault was published privately.
Biographical Information 1894: “The Story of an Hour” was published in Vogue (in all, She had 19 stories published in Vogue) 1898: The Awakening is published; very few critics praised the novel—most hated it
Biographical Information 1904: Kate bought a season ticket to the St. Louis World’s Fair The day she went to the fair, August 20th, was especially hot. She returned home very tired. Around midnight she complained of head pain. Doctors thought she had a cerebral hemorrhage.
Biographical Information She became unconscious on August 21st and died on August 22nd, 1904. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.
Biographical Information Per Seyersted wrote Chopin’s biography in 1969 and, with it, brought new awareness to her work. He wrote, "She was the first woman writer in her country to accept passion as a legitimate subject for serious, outspoken fiction. Revolting against tradition and authority; with a daring which we can hardy fathom today; with an uncompromising honesty and no trace of sensationalism, she undertook to give the unsparing truth about woman’s submerged life. She was something of a pioneer in the amoral treatment of sexuality, of divorce, and of woman’s urge for an existential authenticity. She is in many respects a modern writer, particularly in her awareness of the complexities of truth and the complications of freedom."
"Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions." Description of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening