Kate Chopin, born Catherine O'Flaherty in 1850, was the daughter of an immigrant Irishman and a French-Anerican mother. She was the youngest of three children and her life was relatively happy until at the age of five years, her father died. Her mother never remarried and the lack of male role models in her life as she was maturing, prevented her from experiencing what was basically a a fundamental social concept of her time - the tradition of submission of women to men in all social spheres.
In 1868, when Kate graduated from the Saint Louis Academy, she entered into the St. Louis social scene and was "one of the acknowledged belles of St. Louis." As a young southern debutante, she came in contact with many young men of her social class and eventually, in 1870, married Oscar Chopin of New Orleans, a Creole cotton broker. It was a happy marriage and she fulfilled her role as wife and mother bearing five children.
In 1882, Oscar died suddenly, leaving Kate a widow and businesswoman in her own right. She settled her business affairs and in 1884 moved her family back to St. Louis to be near her mother and relatives. Soon after this move her mother died, ending their very close relationship. Chopin was devastated by this loss of her husband and mother in such rapid succession.
It was at this point in her life that she began writing. She found her central focus and wrote stories whose colorful characters often masked the seriousness of their themes. She was influenced by such classic masters as Maupassant who awakened her to ideas such as personal liberty and freedom. She produced stories that were both entertaining and serious and questioned the social mores and standards of her time.
Her most famous novel, "The Awakening" published in 1899, marked the end of her literary career. The book is about a woman, Edna Pontellier, who slowly emerges from her semi-conscious state as wife and mother and "awakens" into womanhood by the novel's end. The American public was not ready to read about female oppression and a woman's emotional and sexual needs as neither subject was acknowledged.
A barrage of critical abuse and personal ostracization followed the novel's publication and unfortunately extinguished her period of creativity. Kate Chopin died four years later from a brain hemorrhage, obscure and bitter.