LOUISE FITZHUGH was born on October, 5, 1928, into a marriage that lasted only a year. Her father, Millsaps Fitzhugh, came from a wealthy old southern family and, like his own father, went into law, becoming the U.S. district attorney in Memphis. Just after graduating from law school, he met and married Louise Perkins, a tapdancer aspiring to the New York City stage. The couple's divorce in 1930 led to a vicious fight over custody for Louise, a fight that Louise's father won. Shortly thereafter, her mother disappeared from Memphis, and Louise was later told that she was dead.
Louise grew up in her paternal grandparents' house, a huge mansion called Samarkand not far from and forever associated in her mind with the immense "Pink Palace" belonging to the founder of the Piggly-Wiggly food chain; in 1937, Samarkand burned down to the ground. Louise's closest bonds in childhood were with her black nurse and the black chauffeur. It was not until her mother, against the Fitzhughs' wishes, suddenly started to appear in places where Louise would be alone, that Louise learned that she was still alive. An arrangement for these visits must have been negotiated, for Louise began to see her mother periodically and would do so the rest of her childhood.
In 1932, Louise's father remarried, and she went to live with them until she left the South for good. She was sent to Miss Hutchinson's School for young ladies, which seems to have involved her in modeling clothes at the country club and other such society affairs. In defiance of her family's expectations and apparently to avoid becoming a debutante, Louise suddenly married a young man—although her parents quickly had the marriage annulled. In marrying, Louise may have been defending herself against the "scandalous" suggestion that she had been discovered with another girl from her school. Her family acted quickly to cover up the whole affair and had the other girl sent away from Miss Hutchinson's School.
Louise transferred three times before she decided to stay at Bard College in New York, where she studied literature and child psychology. A year into school, her paternal grandmother, the only relative to whom she felt at all close, died. Just two months short of graduating in 1951, Louise left college and moved to Greenwich Village to begin her life as a painter. It was here that Louise found a community open and welcoming of her lesbianism and her artistic talent. She studied