Novelist Kate Chopin's quest for creative freedom shocked the literary world in 1899 with the novel The Awakening. Chopin created the unforgettable character Edna Pontellier, the married woman who sought her own sexual and emotional identity.
"I give myself where I please," the independent Edna said.
Chopin was born Katherine O'Flaherty (1851-1904) in St. Louis, Missouri, an only child whose mother was a French Creole aristocrat. "The way to become rich," Chopin advised, "is to make money, not to save it."
Raised a strict Catholic, she was a voracious reader who always kept a journal and began writing seriously following the unexpected death of her husband to swamp fever.
"But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing," she observed.
Panned by the critics of her time, Chopin was banished from Victorian respectable circles and never wrote another novel. Her bold Awakening was "rediscovered" in the 1960s and hailed for its feminist breakthrough and as a masterpiece of love and passion.
"The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings," she said.
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