Assignment from Mrs. Green

Investigate the author's background. Write a one page (typed) summary. Include at least three citations according to MLA format.

Kate Chopin: The Mistress of Independence in Literature

Kate (O’Flaherty) Chopin was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 8, 1850. She was born to Captain Thomas O’Flaherty and Eliza Feris O’Flaherty. Kate was the only child of theirs to survive past the age of 25. Captain O’Flaherty was a businessman from Ireland who moved to St. Louis with his family. He owned and operated a boat store, a wholesale grocery, and a commission house. He was very successful in his business ventures, spoke fluent French, and had refined manners, therefore making him welcome within St. Louis’ upper class (Wyatt). Eliza Feris O’Flaherty was born into one of the oldest and most aristocratic Creole families of St. Louis. She married Thomas at the age of 15, making their home “a place of joy, vigor, and enthusiasm” (Wyatt).

Thomas died in October of 1855 when the train that he was riding on went over a bridge that collapsed. Kate was only 5 1/2 at the time, and she had enrolled in the Sacred Heart Academy two months prior. For the next two years, Kate lived with her mom, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother.

Her great-grandmother, Mme. Victoria Verdon Charleville, supervised Kate’s education, allowing Kate to speak only French while in her presence. She oversaw Kate’s music lessons, and rewarded her when she did well by telling her stories. This wasn’t considered to be at all proper, considering the fact that the stories were about wrongdoings and contained secrets of some of St. Louis’ highest regarded families. Kate used many of these stories as examples for her own stories later on in life, several appeared in The Awakening.

Kate was confirmed in the Catholic Church by Archbishop Peter Richard Kendrick in 1861 (Wyatt). Mme. Charleville believed that education and religion were very important in St. Louis high society. She made sure that Kate “received a Catholic education appropriate to a young woman destined for a place in ‘proper’ St. Louis society” (Pickering 1373). Kate’s grandmother died a couple of days before Christmas, just months before Kate turned 14. Kate’s half-brother George died not soon after, on Mardi Gras day from typhoid fever. Since her father had also died on a holiday, All Saints Day, 8 years prior, Kate began to have a strong doubt of religion. (Wyatt).

Kate grew up around single, intelligent, and independent women. In fact, Mme. Charleville’s mother was the first woman in St. Louis to acquire a legal separation from her husband (Wyatt). She then went on to own a business and take care of their several children. Although Kate grew up with a house full of relatives and boarders, there weren’t any married couples living in the household until she was 16.

She soon graduated from the Sacred Heart Academy, graduating in the top of her class. She delivered the commencement address and was elected into the Children of Mary Society (Wyatt).

In 1870, when Kate was 19, she married Oscar Chopin, 25, who was a cotton broker from New Orleans. His father died in November of the same year (Wyatt). Kate gave birth to 6 children; Jean, Oscar Charles, George, Fredrick, Felix, and Lelia. Later in life Kate would write a waltz entitled Lelea, bringing question to whether or not she wrote it about her daughter (Boren, 182). The five boys were born within a time span of 1871-1878, all in New Orleans. Due to a downfall in the cotton industry because of exorbitant rainfall, Oscar was forced to move the family out of New Orleans. They moved onto a family plantation in Cloutierville, Louisiana, where Oscar ran the plantation and the general store. Kate gave birth to Lelia, and soon after Oscar died because of malaria. Kate decided to try and run the plantation by herself, but after a year she gave up and moved herself and the children back to St. Louis to live with her mother. Her mother died in June of 1885, leaving Kate incredibly depressed and grief-stricken (Haywood).

Dr. Kolbenheyer, the attending doctor at her mother’s death, and the model for Dr. Mandelet, encourages Chopin to write so she can get rid of her extraordinary energy and so she can also earn some money (Haywood). Between 1888 and 1899, Kate wrote and published more than 12 stories, poems, and other works, including The Awakening . After criticisms of The Awakening surfaced, Kate was depressed and only wrote two stories after that. The Wood-Choppers was published in 1901, and her last story, Polly, was published in 1902. Kate died on August 22, 1904, from a cerebral hemorrhage suffered two days prior at the St. Louis World’s Fair, an event at which Kate frequented often.

Boren, Lynda S. “Taming the Sirens.” Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Ed. Lynda S. Boren and Sara deSaussure Davis. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1992. 180-196.

Haywood, Jennifer. Kate Chopin. 6 Dec 1995. Online. Internet. 10 Feb 1998. Available:

LeBlanc, Jodie. Kate (O’Flaherty) Chopin. Online. Internet. 12 Feb 1998. Available: HHRomanticism/HHChopin/Chopinbio.html

Wyatt, Neal. Biography of Kate Chopin. Online. Internet. 10 Feb 1998. Available:

My other pages

My Main Page
basically a directory
Kate Chopin and "The Awakening"
my main page on Kate Chopin
Nathaniel Hawthorne and "The Scarlett Letter"
my main page on Nathaniel Hawthorne
I Should Tell You
My RENT site
Summer Institute '97 at Alma College
My other Summer Institute '97 page

Jennifer Robitaille

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