Kate stated her day of birth as February 8,1851. There was another listed date, July 12, 1850. Most biographers listed Kate year of birth as 1851 as Kate stated, but Toth discover both baptismal date of May 12, 1850, recorded for Kate at St. Louis Cathedral registry and the U. S. Census record of August 1850 that records a seven-month-old baby, “Cath”, at the O’Flaherty home.
(Toth, 24) Therefore, the actual date of birth is unclear. Her father, Thomas O’Flaherty, was Irish immigrant who became wealthy. Her mother, Eliza Faris O’Flaherty, was of French-Creole heritage. Eliza, at age 16, became Thomas second wife. From Thomas’ first marriage was born George O’Flaherty, Kate’s half brother whom she loved with all her heart.
Also living in the home was her grandmother and her great-grandmother. Kate had a special bond with her father. She was always curious and inquisitive about his job. So, at the age of 5, Thomas O’Flaherty decided to take his daughter to work with him one day.
This caused the bond to grow even stronger. Her father was one of the founders of the Pacific Railroad. In 1855, during a celebration ceremony of the completion of the Pacific Railroad, a bridge collapsed and the train fell into the Gasconade River. Her father died in this accident, this beginning a series of tragedies Kate had to endure. After her father’s death, she began bonding with the other members of her family. Her mother, Eliza, dealt with death of her husband by focusing on religion.
She enrolled Kate in the St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart. It is here that Kate discovers literature and the joys of reading (Hoffman). Her great-grandmother taught her to speak French and play the piano. She also delighted Kate with stories that made a vial impression on her. One of which was the story of how her grandmother, had run a ferry service on the Mississippi, and lively stories of women who dared- and seldom remarried.
(Howard) In 1863, Kate had to endure more heartache. Her great-grandmother dies. During the same year, her half-brother, George, was captured as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War, contracted typhoid fever and dies. This caused Kate to go into seclusion for two years. She spent most of her time in the family attic. Missing a great deal of school at this time did not cause Kate to flounder.
Although she was a scholastic student, she being a creative storyteller. After finishing school, she took two years off and became the belle in St. Louis Society in which her mother, Eliza, was so fond of. It was during this time that Kate started being criticized for her rebellious life style. She would be seen walking around the city unaccompanied, and even smoking.
This was a period in time when her behavior was not considered as a norm among high society. Women were treated as second class people. They could not vote or have an open opinion on any thing other than the duties of a wife. Why was Kate not allowed to walk alone? Why was she not allowed to smoke or present herself as she grew to be? What were the duties of a wife according to Kate Chopin? After all, three widows; a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother raised her. She grew up with women making decisions about their lives, and on tales of women being dominant and strong.
Some of her influencing may also have come from the school she attended. The nuns were strong and durable, and showed her women could be in charge of their own lives. Many critics believe this is when Kate became rebellious of the way women were treated. But her first account of rebellion .