A DARING LIFE BEGINS
Eudora Welty was born on April 13, 1909, in Jackson, Mississippi. From her father, Christian, she inherited a “love for all instruments that instruct and fascinate”—like telescopes, radios, and cameras—while her mother, Chestina, passed down her passion for reading, writing, and gardening. With her younger brothers Edward and Walter, Welty shared bonds of devotion, camaraderie, and humor. Growing up in a home that nourished curiosity and close relationships put Welty on a path to become an acclaimed photographer, an avid gardener, and one of America’s most notable writers.
A TASTE OF NEW YORK
Welty graduated high school at age 16 in 1925. Following an “al fresco” graduation party in the Welty garden, she attended Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. Drawn to the vibrant theater, art, and literary scene in New York City, she enrolled in graduate study at the Columbia University School of Business. Life in New York thrilled the aspiring writer, but it was not to last. In 1931, the sudden death of her father, in the midst of the Great Depression, brought Welty back home to tend to her family and find work.
A PUBLISHED WRITER
A job with the Works Progress Administration sent Welty throughout Mississippi. As she traveled, she took photographs. Her images of rural life were soon exhibited in New York, but were not published as she had hoped. Her first publication was instead a short story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman,” in 1936. Her first book was published five years later, ushering in an era of prolific writing and critical acclaim.
Golden (Apple) Years
A PROLIFIC ERA
A Curtain of Green, "The Robber Bridegroom", The Wide Net, Delta Wedding, and The Golden Apples were among the works published from the mid-1930s through 1940s. During these years, Welty often worked alongside her mother in the garden for a much-needed break from writing and solace from worries of war. With dear friends and family members away in service, she focused on gardening, writing, and reviewing books. After World War II, Welty traveled to Europe herself on a Guggenheim Fellowship, writing even more—until tragedy struck her family once again.
Award of a Lifetime
THE PULITZER PRIZE
As her mother’s health and vision failed, Welty’s time was increasingly devoted to caregiving. For nearly a decade, she was unable to concentrate on writing. In 1966, Welty suffered the loss of her mother, followed by her brother Edward within the same week. Though emotionally devastating, the loss also freed her to write again. Soon, Welty published two novels: Losing Battles and The Optimist’s Daughter, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Welty was the first living author to be included in the Library of America series. She died on July 23, 2001, at the age of 92.
The Eudora Welty Collection
Research the most extensive collection of Eudora Welty materials in the world. The Eudora Welty Collection is managed, housed, and made available for research by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson, Mississippi. With materials dating from 1882 to 2001, the collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, negatives, drawings, film and video footage, essays, reviews, ephemera, awards and honors. It is one of the most varied literary collections in the United States.