Kate Chopin (1851-1904) was an American author of short stories and novels.

Katherine O’Flaherty was born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 8, 1850 to Irish immigrant and successful businessman Thomas O’Flaherty and Creole Eliza Faris, a well-connected member of the French community in St. Louis. Kate was the third of five children, but her sisters died in infancy and her brothers (from her father’s first marriage) died in their early twenties, leaving her the only child to live past the age of twenty-five.

In 1855, at five and a half, Kate was sent to The Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic boarding school in St. Louis. Her father was killed two months later when a train on which he was riding crossed a bridge that collapsed.

Thereafter Kate lived in a house full of smart, independent women: her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – all of them widows.

From 1855 to 1868 Kate attended the Sacred Heart Academy, where she formed deep bonds with the nuns and the lifelong friend she met at Sacred Heart, Kitty Garasche.

Much of the fiction Kate wrote as an adult draws on the nurturing she received from women as she was growing up.

Kate’s great-grandmother, Victoria Verdon Charleville oversaw her education and taught her French, music and the gossip on St. Louis women of the past. She also stressed the need to live life “clearly and fearlessly.”

Victoria’s own mother had been the first woman in St. Louis to obtain a legal separation from her husband, after which she raised her five children and ran a shipping business on the Mississippi.

From 1867 to 1870 Kate kept a commonplace book – a little notebook in which she recorded diary entries and copied passages of essays, poems and other writings.

When she graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart in 1868, she was known as a brilliant storyteller, an honors student, a youthful cynic and an accomplished pianist.

At the age of 19, Kate met Oscar Chopin, the son of a wealthy cotton-growing family in Louisiana. They were married on June 9, 1870 and settled in New Orleans, where Oscar was a cotton broker.

Little is known of the details of Oscar and Kate’s romance. What is known is that she did not sacrifice her spiritual freedom by marrying him and violated all the rules of expected female behavior. She rolled and smoked Cuban cigars. Her clothes were flashy and stylish, yet always memorable. Kate gave birth to five sons and one daughter by age 29.

Unfortunately, their financial situation took a turn for the worse, and the family moved to a small Louisiana town – Cloutierville – in order to support themselves by managing a plantation and a store.

Within three years of their move, Oscar contracted malaria and died. Left to fend for herself and her children, Chopin ran the store and the plantation for about a year before deciding to move back to St. Louis to be near her mother. When her mother passed away soon thereafter, Chopin turned to writing, both as therapy after her devastating losses and as a way to support her family.

In 1904 Kate Chopin bought a season ticket for the St. Louis World’s Fair, which was not far from her home. It had been hot in the city all that summer, and August 20 was especially hot.

When she returned home from the fair, she was very tired. She called her son at midnight complaining of a pain in her head, probably a cerebral hemorrhage. She lapsed into unconsciousness the next day.

On August 22, 1904, Kate Chopin died at the age of 53.

Kate Chopin

Katherine O’Flaherty


February 8, 1850


August 22, 1904 (aged 54)