Born Katherine O'Flaherty in 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri, Kate Chopin came from a well to do family . Her father was a successful businessman. His second wife, Eliza Faris was a member of the French community in St. Louis.and Chopin's mother. "Katie" O'Flaherty as she was called as a child received an excellent education. Raised by her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother after her father was killed in a train accident, Katie was taught to think for herself. She was instructed in French and German and became a proficient pianist. In 1870 she married Oscar Chopin, a cotton factor and moved to New Orleans. In 1879, after her husband's business failed, the family moved to northeastern Louisiana. Kate was fascinated by the Creole culture, but as she was busy raising her several children, did not begin to write until she returned to St. Louis after the death of her husband. In the 1890's her short stories began to appear in magazines like Century, Vogue and Harper's Young People. Her first collection of short stories, entitled "Bayou Folk", was published in 1894. A second collection appeared a few years later. In all, she wrote about 100 short stories. These stories dealt with the Cajun and Creole culture she found in New Orleans and Northern Louisiana. Her themes covered topics unusual for her times: adultery, racism, female sexuality and the confining roles of women. In many ways she was ahead of her time. This can be seen in her novel, "The Awakening", a work published in 1899. The book's protagonist was a married woman, who, finding herself in a passionless marriage, commits adultery. Feeling alone and despondent, the woman drowns herself in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ms. Chopin died at the age of 54 -two days after suffering a massive stroke.
For many years, Chopin's work was ignored, perhaps because society was not ready to accept her themes. Her reputation began to revive in the 1930's and now she is considered one of the best late 19th century American writers. Her short stories, especially "The Storm," "The Story of an Hour" and "Desiree's Baby" are well known and appreciated. They have become required reading for most college students.