"The Awakening" is a novel written by Kate Chopin and published in 1899. The novel has since become a seminal work in feminist literature and is seen as one of the earliest feminist novels in American history. The novel focuses on women's issues with societal standards and the struggle with the idea of being a […]
Kate Chopin was born Katherine O'Flaherty on February 8th, 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri. The daughter of Irish and French immigrants, Kate was one of five children although all of her siblings died young. In 1855, when she was just five years old, Kate's father died. After this, she became very close with the women in her family including her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was an avid reader as a child and delighted in reading fairy tales and poetry as well as novels and religious allegories.
In 1870 when Kate was 20 years old, she married Oscar Chopin and moved to New Orleans. Chopin gave birth to six children in the 1870's. Unfortunately, her husband's cotton brokerage business failed and that family was forced to move to Cloutierville, Lousiana. While there, they managed several plantations and a general store and became valued community members. Kate especially became close with many women from the Creole culture of the area.
In 1882, Oscar, Kate's husband died and left her massively in debt. She was forced to sell the general store and plantation and moved back to St. Louis with her children to live with her mother. Shortly after this, Kate's mother died and Kate feels into a deep depression. A family friend and Kate's obstetrician, Dr. Fredrick Kolbenheyer suggested that she start writing in order to not only bring in income but as a form of therapy. In the 1890's, when she was in her forties, Kate began writing short stories and articles. She was first published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She saw moderate success publishing in similar literary magazines of the time, although she was mostly seen as a local comedy author and her true literary prowess was overlooked.
The second novel she wrote, 'The Awakening' was published in 1899 and received much negative press for its support of the women's rights movement, although some newspapers also reviewed it favorably. Kate's work is considered far ahead of its time from a feminist standpoint and much of it was, therefore not embraced by the world. After 12 years of attempting to be a serious author Kate became discouraged by the lack of support and returned to short story writing. She never received enough money from writing to sustain her family and had to rely on other investments.
While Kate was attending the St. Louis World's Fair on August 20th, 1904, Kate suffered a brain hemorrhage and died only two days later at the age of 54. She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.