Kate Chopin was quite a woman and caused quite a stir. She was born February 8, 1851 in St. Louis. Her father, Thomas O'Flaherty, was a hard working founder for the Pacific Railroad. Her mother, Eliza O'Flaherty was a prominent member of the French-Creole community and member of the elite social scene. When Chopin was five she was sent to the Academy of Sacred Heart. Shortly after she left, her father was killed when the Gasconade River Bridge collapsed as the inaugural train passed over it. She returned home to be taught by her great-grandmother and grandmother. Her great-grandmother, Eliza Faris taught her the basics. Her grandmother, Madam Charleville had the most influence over her. She taught music, history, French, and she emphasized the need to live, "clearly and fearlessly." All through her childhood Chopin grew up around independent and strong-minded women.
Two years after her father's death Chopin returned to the Academy of Sacred Heart where she was assigned to write Commonplace Book. This book was the first record of her writings and diary of her academic and social life. At school she was known as a cynic and accomplished pianist.
At the age of nineteen she met Oscar Chopin, a cotton broker from Louisiana. They married on June 9, 1870. Her last writings in her Commonplace Book were of her three-month long honeymoon in Europe. Oscar and Kate lived in New Orleans until 1879 when Oscar's brokerage business failed. They moved to Natchitoches Parish where Chopin became familiar with the Creole tradition and culture. In 1883, Oscar died from swamp fever more commonly known as malaria.
She tried to run Oscar's business and plantation after his death, but was unable too. She moved back to St. Louis with her six children, one girl and five boys. Shortly after she moved back to St. Louis her mother died. Depressed, she was advised to write by the family friend and physician, Dr. Frederick Kolbenheyer, as a way to express her feelings.
At first Chopin hoped that her writing career would support her family, but instead she as supported by real estate she owned in Louisiana. Chopin often wrote in the living room with her six children around her. Her writing was influenced by Guy de Maupassant and used his realistic fiction as a model for her own writing. Her short stories were often published in magazines. Her writing was popular until her second novel, The Awakening, was published. Most male reviewers condemned her book for they way she portrayed her characters. . The Wednesday Club invited her to do a reading and over three hundred women applauded and praised her.
Her writing most often dealt with marriage and gave an alternative perspective on the topic. Her individual characters were faced with decisons about following society or choosing their own way. Chopin explored unique problems and was not afraid to propose that women want something that they were not normally allowed to have, such as independence. In her years of writing, Kate Chopin wrote over one hundred short stories, novels, and sketches. As she aged, poor health and family concerns slowed her down. Kate Chopin was considered one of the first feminists. Her stories often dealt with women making their own decisions and standing up for themselves. In her narratives, Chopin explored the special problems that woman faced. Because she portrayed women as keen and able to exist without the complete support of men, many men snubbed her writing. On August 22, 1904 the first feminist writer passed away from a cerebral hemorage.