Kate Chopin is the author of one of the first feminist novels “The Awakening.” Her maiden name is Katherine O’Flaherty, she was born in 1851 into a wealthy family. Her father emigrated from Ireland to the United States, where he founded a successful business in the cities of St. Louis and Missouri, and later became the owner of the railway Pacific Railroad. Her mother was born into the famous French-Creole family of St. Louis. Without violating the traditions of these two worlds, Katherine married Oscar Chopin, who was a son of wealthy parents from Louisiana in 1870. Before the Civil War, the family of her husband, like most of the rich families of the South, held slaves.
Oscar Chopin, Creole businessman and owner of the cotton processing enterprises, brought his young wife in their own home in New Orleans. Her free manners shocked the local community. Not willing to submit to certain restrictions, traditional for the women of the region, she smoked, walked the streets without a male escort and supported local bohemians. In spite of the challenging behavior, the family of Chopin became the cultural center of New Orleans. The family had six children.
Oscar died in 1882. Kate with her children came back to St. Louis. Trying to get used to living without her husband and to earn some money, which she now needed, she began to write about her life in Louisiana. In the 1880-1890s, she wrote short stories in the style of “local color,” which was very popular back then. The stories were well-received by the public. These stories, most of them, tell about the weird and wonderful customs of life of people in different parts of the country.
Although many of the Kate’s stories described the marriage topics and raised the question of the limited role of women in society, they were so cleverly constructed and interesting in content, that literary critics chose to ignore the first hint of feminism in them. Chopin soon began to organize literary salon. Her efforts have contributed to the cultural development of society in the South and Midwest. However, her best and the most feminist novel “The Awakening”, which was released in 1899, put an end to this development.
“The Awakening” was met very hostile. Literary critics condemned work and accused Chopin of immorality. At the same time, she started to receive letters from women from different parts of the country, who had very close feelings to those of the protagonist. Still, many Kate’s friend began to avoid her.
After the scandal around “The Awakening” was over, Kate was much less engaged in literary work. When she died in 1904, her reputation, it seemed, had been destroyed forever.
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