(This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of Paper jam)
February is mostly known as the month of love; the month when most people pour out their love and purchase valentine gifts for the love of their life. However, during this month we also celebrate the birthdays of some authors who are remembered for the astonishing literature that they gifted us before they departed this life. One of these great authors is Kate Chopin.
Chopin was born on February 8, 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri by the name of Katherine O’Flaherty. She had two older brothers who were her father’s sons from a former marriage, and later her parents had two more daughters who, unfortunately, both died before the age of two. Death was no stranger in Chopin’s life—many of her loved ones died at a young age. Both of her brothers passed away in their early twenties, and her father died when she was only five years old after a bridge collapsed over the train that he was in. Kate Chopin married Oscar Chopin at the age of twenty, and by the time she was twenty-eight, she was already a mother of six—one daughter and five sons. After her marriage, she became a housewife, so it was financially devastating for her when at the age of thirty-two, she became a widow when her husband died from malaria. It was out of financial necessity that she began to write.
Chopin is best known for one of her only two published novels, The Awakening. Although this novel is considered a great piece of literature today, it received a lot of negative feedback when it was published in 1899. The harsh criticism discouraged Chopin from writing anymore novels, but she wrote a lot of wonderful short stories. Among the many brilliant short stories that she wrote are: “The Story of an Hour,” “Regret,” and “A Respectable Woman.” Most of the criticism about Chopin’s work was because of her feminist style of writing—her stories were mostly about strong and independent women. Chopin is now known to be a respected feminist writer of the 20th century. Kate Chopin died at the young age of fifty-four on August 22, 1904 from a cerebral hemorrhage. Her last published story is “Polly.”