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Eudora Welty  

Eudora Welty was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and short story writer whose carefully crafted stories of Southern small town life have universal appeal.
Last Updated: Sep 6, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Eudora Welty (1909-2001)


Miss Welty in her younger years


Miss Welty's Parents, Christian and Chestina Welty


Brief Biography

A product of the deep South, Eudora Welty lived and died in her beloved Mississippi, with brief sojourns to the University of Wisconsin where she earned her B.A. degree in English and to Columbia University where she studied business and advertising.  She considered herself a sheltered writer, but her themes are universal.  Her beautiful, lapidary prose has captivated readers for many years and continues to enthrall people new to her novels and short stories.  She was not a recluse: she explored and photographed her fellow Mississippi citizens during the Great Depression ( and published  books of her photographs)  travelled to Europe, loved to visit New York City  and lectured at Harvard.   She enjoyed parties and having fun with friends.   But she always returned to the family home in Jackson Mississippi, dying there in 2001.  Her home was her bedrock, especially in hard times.

Miss Welty was born in Jackson  in 1909, the daughter of an insurance executive and a mother who loved to read.  The family was loving and supportive  ( Miss Welty had two brothers).  Her father loved to take apart all kinds of mechanical instruments.  Eudora shared this interest and later became fascinated by cameras.  She graduated from the local high school in 1925, attended the Mississippi State College for Women before graduating from the Unversity of Wisconsin.  At her father's urging, she attended Columbia University's School of Business.  After her formal education, Miss Welty worked for a local Jackson radio station and wrote for a Memphis newspaper.  In 1935, she began work for the Works Progress Administration, travelling all through Mississippi taking pictures of daily life in her state.   This work gave her material for her stories and a deeper understanding of human relationships.  In 1936 she published "The Death of a Traveling Salesman" in a literary magazine.  The editor highly praised the story.  Encouraged, she decided to become a full time writer and published stories in notable publications such as "The New Yorker."  Her first book of short stories , "A Curtain of Green,"  was well received.  She was asked to work as a book reviewer for "The New York Times" and won a Guggenheim Fellowship, which permitted her to travel to Europe.  In 1960 and for ten years, she published little, spending time caring for her elderly mother and one remaining brother.  She began writing again in the 1970's and in 1973 received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel, "The Optimist's Daughter."  Her collection of photographs was published in 1971.  More books of photographs followed.  She lectured at Harvard University.   These lectures were adapted into her well received memoir "One Writer's Beginnings."   Miss Welty is noted for excellent stories such as "Why I Live at the P.O. and "A Worn Path."

Miss Welty was a master of Southern speech and place.  She sets the scenes of her stories in the places she knew from her travels throughout her home state.  She was interested in relationships and family dynamics. Her prose is a pleasure to read.  The recipient of many awards, ( including The Presidential Medal of Freedom)  all told she published  just under fifty stories, six novels, many book reviews and an autobigraphy.  In her later years, she appeared on television interviews, always polite and well spoken.  She died peacefully in her family home in 2001 and is buried in the local  cemetery in Jackson, carved on her headstone is a quote from "The Optimist's Daughter."  She was 92 at the time of her death.  Her family home is now a National Historic Landmark and is toured by readers of her books.

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