About Eudora Alice Welty
Eudora Alice Welty was an American author of short stories and novels about the American South. Her book The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous awards. She was the first living author to have her works published by the Library of America. Her house in Jackson, Mississippi, is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public as a museum.
Eudora Welty was born in Jackson on April 13, 1909, the daughter of Christian and Chestina Welty. She grew up with brothers Edward and Walter. Eudora’s mother was a well-read schoolteacher. Eudora soon developed a love of reading, reinforced by her mother who believed that "any room in our house, at any time in the day, was there to read in, or to be read to." Her father, who worked as an insurance executive, was intrigued by gadgets and machines and inspired in Eudora a love of all things mechanical. She later would use technology for symbolism in her stories and would also become an avid photographer, like her father.
Near the time of her high school graduation, Eudora moved with her family to a house built for them at 1119 Pinehurst Street, which would remain her permanent address until her death. Wyatt C. Hendricks designed the Welty's Tudor Revival style home, who also worked with the firm that had designed the Lamar Life Building in downtown Jackson, then under construction for the Lamar Life Insurance Company, of which Christian Welty was a senior officer.
College & Early Career
Eudora Welty succeeded at multiple colleges in a time when most women in the United States didn’t even attend college. From 1925 to 1927, she studied at Mississippi College for Women, then transferred to University of Wisconsin to complete her studies in English Literature. She studied advertising at Columbia at the suggestion of her father. Because she graduated at the height of the Great Depression, she struggled to find work in New York. She returned to Jackson in 1931, and soon after suffered the death of her father, who died of leukemia. She took a job at a local radio station and wrote about Jackson society for the Tennessee newspaper Commercial Appeal. In 1935, she began work for the Works Progress Administration. As a publicity agent, she collected stories, conducted interviews, and took photographs of daily life in Mississippi. It was here that she got a chance to observe the Southern life and human relationships that she would later use in her short stories. During this time she also held meetings in her house with fellow writers and friends, a group she called the Night-Blooming Cereus Club. Three years later, she left her job to become a full-time writer.
In 1936, she published "The Death of a Traveling Salesman" in the literary magazine Manuscript, and then proceeded to publish stories in several other notable publications, including the New Yorker. She solidified her place as an influential Southern writer when she penned her first book of short stories, A Curtain of Green. Her new-found success won her a seat on the staff of the New York Times book review and as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship grant that allowed her to travel to France, England, Ireland, and Germany. While abroad, she spent some time as a resident lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge. In 1960, she returned home to Jackson once again to care for her elderly mother and two brothers.
Six years later, Eudora's family was gone; at 52 she had no immediate family left. She continued to write, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for her novel, The Optimist’s Daughter. She also published a collection of photographs depicting the Great Depression titled One Time, One Place in 1971. She then lectured at Harvard and eventually turned the speeches into a three-part book entitled One Writer’s Beginnings. She continued to live in her family house in Jackson until her death on July 23, 2001.