We were devastated to hear the news reported earlier this week by the AP that the 200-year old Kate Chopin House & Bayou Folk Museum, located in Louisiana’s atmospheric Cane River country, was destroyed by fire. The blaze broke out in the early morning hours on Wednesday, and despite the best efforts of local fire fighters, the graceful plantation-style abode burned to the ground. Kate Chopin lived there with her husband and six children in the 1880s, a decade before the publication of her controversial novel, The Awakening.
During her time in Cloutierville, Chopin scandalized the residents of the French-Creole village with her penchant for wearing extravagant fashions, smoking cigarettes and–gasp–taking solitary walks. Edna, the protagonist of The Awakening, later went on to challenge the traditional values of the Bayou community even further by taking steps to liberate herself from her stifling marriage. (Though today the book is consider a classic of proto-feminist literature, reviewers at the time denounced it as “unwholesome,” “vulgar,” and “immoral.”)
Although the cause of the blaze at the Chopin House is still under investigation, we hope that eventually the museum can be rebuilt and find a second life, simliar to The Thomas Wolfe Memorial, in Asheville, NC, which reopened in 2004 after undergoing restorations from arson damage. — Joni Rendon