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Kate Chopin is a brilliant writer. Her writing career is during the late 1800’s. She lives in a time where women are sexually suppressed and their opinions are not valued. Her writing holds more in common with our time than the time just after the Civil War. Although her life was full of death, she still lived as happy a life as she could by writing in such a bold and daring way.
Kate Chopin was born as Catherine O’Flaherty. She was born July 12, 1850. She is the daughter of Thomas and Eliza O’Flaherty.
Kate’s father, Thomas O’Flaherty, was born in Ireland in 1805. He came to the United States in 1823. In 1825 he became a merchant in St. Louis. In 1855 he died suddenly in a train wreck when she was only four. His sudden death pushed all his family into new relationships with each other and the world.
Thomas’ first wife, Catherine de Reilhe, married Thomas in 1839. She was a French-Creole girl, who died after giving birth to their son, George. In 1844, Thomas married Eliza Faris. They had three children together: Jane, who died at childbirth; Thomas Jr.; and Catherine, who we know as Kate Chopin. After the father’s death, Eliza had to cope with being a widow.
Kate’s childhood consisted of a widowed mother, and a widowed great-grandmother. As a child, Kate experienced many deaths. She became emotionally close to her half brother George O’Flaherty. George was a Confederate solider during the Civil War and died from typhoid fever after being released from prison in 1862. After her father and brother’s death, Kate seemed to have collapsed. She became faintly ill, and it took her two to three years to recover the traumatizing events of her childhood. These events changed her permanently which made her very wary.
Kate’s great-grandmother, Madame Charleville, taught her French. In fact, that was the only thing she would speak around Kate. Madame Charleville would tell Kate stories about the French. Giving Kate a history lesson about how the French founded the city along the banks of the Mississippi. Some of these stories were false, but Kate didn’t know the difference. They were just, “being no more than the scandals of another day” (Magill 205). In the end, Kate received an altogether unconventional education from her great-grandmother. Kate began a more conventional education at the Madames of the Sacred Heart Convent in 1860. There, the nuns taught her discipline and a respectable academic curriculum. Kate also along with English, learned French literature as well.
Kate began to play the piano at an early age. “Kitty Garesche recalls Kate being an accomplished pianist with an exceptional musical memory” (Baechler 68). Kate began her music with her great-grandmother supervising her piano playing. The great-grandmother would sit patiently with Kate as she practiced her scales. She done this to teach her the importance of discipline and technique. During her schooling with the Madames of the Sacred Heart, the nuns encouraged Kate to continue with her piano playing. “By the time she reached adolescence, Kate O’Flaherty was an accomplished musician” (Unger 205).
“In June 1868, Kate graduated from the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart. She then plunged into the fashionable life, and for two years she was…’One of he acknowledged belles of St. Louis’” (Skaggs 2).
After Kate’s graduation, she emerged from the dark period of her brother’s death, Kate became a popular young woman. In 1869 she began to smoke, which is highly unusual for a woman in those days. “For two years Kate lived a life of an attractive girl in the ‘high society’ (of French Origin) in which her mother moved” (Kunitz 150).
She was greatly fascinated by all the varieties of people she met in New Orleans.“She met aristocratic Creoles, unpretentious Cajuns (or Acadian: French pioneers who in 1755 had chosen to leave Nova Scotia rather than live under the British), Redbones (part Indian, part white), ‘Free Mulattoes’ (so called because they had never been slaves), blacks, and a cosmopolitan assortment of Germans, Italians, Irish, and Americans” (Baechler 68).
Kate would sometimes roam the city unaccompanied. She had a liking to take a streetcar or just simply walk on foot.
There in New Orleans she met 25 year old Oscar
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American women in business, Kate Chopin, Cane River National Heritage Area, Kate Austen, Cloutierville, Louisiana
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