Kate Chopin Biography

Kate Chopin Biography

Kate Chopin, born Katherine O'Flaherty was born to an Irish immigrant father and a French American mother. Though she was the third of five children, her older half-brothers died in their early twenties, and her younger sisters died in infancy. Her father died when she was four.

Kate Chopin’s life and work, considered together, show how difficult it is to define female identity in America. Chopin’s greatest works (The Awakening, “The Story of an Hour”) are defined by portraits of women becoming aware of their own desires, struggling to realize them, and dying.

However, in her own life it was Chopin’s loved ones who died and Chopin herself who lived to juggle artistic, social, and sexual desires, while raising six children alone and dealing with her late husband’s debts. Her works repeatedly refuse to provide simple answers and instead draw readers into sympathy with the complexities created by passion, racial bias, and the demands imposed by society.

Facts and Trivia

  • Much of Chopin’s life was defined by the deaths of those close to her. Her father died when she was only four years old. A founder of the Pacific Railroad, he was killed when a railway bridge collapsed.
  • Upon her husband's death, Chopin managed their small plantations and a general store by herself. However, after two years she moved back to her birthplace of St. Louis.
  • Chopin’s half-brother died from typhoid fever in 1863. Her great-grandmother, whom she’d been very close to, died the same year.
  • Many of Chopin’s works are set in Louisiana and often describe the lush natural settings and the mix of cultures that define the region.
  • The Awakening has been adapted into two movies, and PBS made a documentary about Chopin’s life in 1999.
  • After spending a day at the World’s Fair in Saint Louis in 1904, Chopin died of a brain hemorrhage.
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