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Chopin, Kate O'Flaherty

Kate O'Flaherty Chopin (shō´păn´), 1851–1904, American author, b. St. Louis. Of Creole-Irish descent, she married (1870) a Louisiana businessman and lived with him in Natchitoches parish and New Orleans. In these places she acquired an intimate knowledge of Creole and Cajun life, upon which she was to draw in many of her stories. After her husband's death in 1883, she returned with their six children to St. Louis and there began to write. Two collections of tales, Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897), earned her a reputation as a local colorist, but her novel The Awakening (1899) caused a storm of criticism because of its treatment of feminine sexuality. In depicting objectively a woman's confused groping toward self-understanding and self-acceptance, Chopin seemed to threaten the mores of her time although she did not explicitly attack them. Largely ignored for the next 60 years, her work is now praised for its literary merit as well as for its remarkable independence of mind and feeling.

See her complete works, ed. by P. Seyersted (2 vol., 1969) and ed. by S. M. Gilbert (2002); her private papers, ed. by E. Toth et al. (1998); T. Bonner, Jr., The Kate Chopin Companion (1988); biographies by E. Toth (1988 and 1999).

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