Chapter 8
A Professional Writer

KATE CHOPIN had to learn how to play the role of professional writer.

She had always known how to be a widow, and she learned about marriage and motherhood from her mother, and from experience. Too, the rules for wives, mothers, and widows are always widely available -- in magazines, newspapers, etiquette books, synagogues, and sermons. There are always people willing to tell a woman where to go and how to do it, if she wants to settle into a conventional destiny.

It is far more difficult for a woman to fit into a profession run by men.

In Kate Chopin's social class, few women worked outside the home. Kitty Garesché was a teacher, but nuns wore distinctive habits and had withdrawn from the world. Chopin's cousin Lovy Charleville had been a teacher, and Chopin's great-great-grandmother was the remarkable shipping entrepreneur. But otherwise the women of her family had, as far as anyone ever recorded, lived on inheritances and investments and the support of their husbands or children. When those failed, as they did for Chopin's grandmother, then the eldest daughter, Eliza, was given in marriage to a wealthy man.

Certainly the women in Kate Chopin's family did work within the home, administering mammies, nurses, cooks, laundresses, maids, and yard men. But the ladies of Chopin's social class did not work for wages, nor did their names appear in newspapers and magazines until the advent of society columns in the 1870s.

Chopin, though, had decided to step outside that familiar private realm. She would earn money from her work, and she would be written

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