Saint Patrick's Day is tomorrow and March is usually the time when I reflect upon my heritage and honor my ancestors' history. Since March is also Women's History Month, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite female American Irish writers who inspire others to write and love great literature.
Born in 1851, Kate Chopin was the daughter of Thomas O'Flaherty, an Irish immigrant and a founder of the Pacific Railroad. Chopin was attuned to the Louisiana lifestyle and role of the submissive housewife, which she herself rejected (even though she eventually married and had six children). These observations were reflected and often criticized in her short stories, poetry, and novels. Though unsuccessful in her own time, The Awakening is now considered a significant work in feminist literature.
While most people know Margaret Mitchell for her epic novel, Gone with the Wind, her love of writing carried from her childhood up until her death. She began her career as a feature writer for the Atlanta Journal. She wanted to write articles about prominent women in Georgia's history, but her first article in the series highlighted a true story involving a woman dressing up as a man in the Civil War. The feature was canceled after strong negative reviews. However, Margaret Mitchell went on to leave her mark in our literary history by writing one of America's best loved and greatest novels.
In a college creative writing course, I was assigned the short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. I found the story to be humorous, violent, and unique, and O'Connor soon became one of my favorite writers. Flannery O'Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia and wrote short stories and novels. Her themes revolved around Southern life and brought up questions of faith and religion (she herself was a devout Catholic). Although she was diagnosed with lupus and passed away at an early age, she has become a prominent figure in American literature.
As a young girl, Mary Coyle Chase was influenced by Irish stories and fairy tales that were told to her by her parents and uncles. These stories would later turn up in some of Mary's other writings. Before writing plays and stories, Chase wrote for a small Colorado paper and did some investigative reporting. She eventually left the newspaper to pursue a career in playwriting, writing numerous plays including Harvey, one of the longest running plays on Broadway.
Born in Dublin but raised in the States, Lucy Grealy (1963-2002) was a young poet who became famous for her memoir, Autobiography of a Face. One of my personal favorites, the memoir recounts Grealy's diagnosis with cancer which ultimately led to the removal of half her jaw at the age of nine. Lucy Grealy was also a writer of poetry and essays, and attended the prestigious writing program at the University of Iowa.
You can find more information on these wonderful authors by visiting the Biography Resource Center available through NYPL articles and databases. You can also find biographies and the authors' works by visiting the catalog.