Laura E. Skandera-Trombley
Grace Elizabeth King was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 29, 1852, the third child and eldest of four girls in a family of eight children. Her father, William Woodson King, a Georgia native, was a successful jurist and served in the Louisiana state legislature but lost his money with the defeat of the Confederacy. King's mother, Sarah Ann Miller, was her father's second wife. She was of Georgia ancestry though born and raised in New Orleans. Of Protestant religious faith, she grew up immersed in New Orleans' French- speaking, Catholic Creole society. Sarah King, known as a "charming raconteuse," would entertain her daughters with stories of Creole society ( James331). Grace King was educated first by governesses and then was a student in Creole schools. During the Civil War the family fled to their plantation in St. Martin's parish where they remained for four years. Upon their return to the city at the end of Union occupation, Grace matriculated at the Institute St. Louis, described in her story "Monsieur Motte," where she became so proficient in French that she won a prize in competition and graduated at age sixteen. She then was educated by the Misses Cenas, and under the tutelage of Héloise Cenas, she developed an interest in writing.
After her father's death in 1881, King's writing aspirations grew stronger, and her first essay appeared in 1885, "Heroines of Fiction," delivered before the Pan-Gnostic Society. At a party in 1885, King met Richard Watson Gilder, editor of the Century magazine and publisher of George Washington Cable. After hearing her criticism of Cable's portrayals of Creole society, Gilder challenged her to improve upon Cable's work by writing her own stories. King immediately composed "Monsieur Motte," and Charles Dudley Warner, an ac-