Chapter 10
A World of Writing and Friends

A GIRL'S FIRST FRIEND is her mother. But for many nineteenth-century women writers, that first bond was broken much too soon. The mothers of Emily and Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf all died before their daughters were in their teens. Across the Atlantic, the same was true for Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Even Dorothy Parker, born in 1893, was motherless before the turn of the century.

But Kate Chopin's mother lived until Kate was thirty-five, and unlike all the others except Stowe, Chopin had children of her own. Chopin's longest unbroken friendship was with her mother, and Kate's marriage changed the friendship but but did not end it. They wrote letters, visited for months at a time, and shared the most primal female experiences. When Kate gave birth, her mother was by her side. Eliza O'Flaherty's opinions also shaped the way Kate raised her children, which may be why the young Chopins adored their mother and never wanted to move away from home.

Eliza was also Kate's confidante in that time of confusion after Oscar's death -- when Kate, lonely and dazed, fell into her romance with Albert Sampite. Eliza, the practical Frenchwoman, may have been the one to sound the alarm when she learned -- if she did -- that Kate's money was being mingled with Albert's. Certainly she was the one who induced Kate to "Come home . . . back to your mother who loves you" -- the words that Madame Valmondé says to her beloved daughter in Chopin "Désirée's Baby."

-174-

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