April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001
Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on April 13, 1909. She published several pieces in magazines for children before she reached her teens. From 1925–1927, she attended Mississippi State College for Women (MSCW, or the “W” as it was called) in Columbus but transferred to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for her final two years of college. She spent an academic year in New York City, studying at the Columbia University School of Business but attending lectures, plays, concerts, and art exhibitions as well. The untimely death of her father in 1931 prompted her return to Jackson, where she worked for the local radio station and wrote Jackson and Delta society news for the Memphis, TN, Commercial Appeal, a major newspaper for northwest Mississippi. In 1936, she published her first important short story, and from that time onward her writing career expanded, and she found considerable success.
Author of five novels and numerous short stories and essays, Welty’s work spans the 20th century. She is known for her intimate portraits of Mississippi life, her modernist techniques, her wit, and her vast allusions. Welty says of her own work: “What I do in writing of any character is to try to enter into the mind, heart, and skin of a human being who is not myself. Whether this happens to be a man or a woman, old or young, with skin black or white, the primary challenge lies in making the jump itself. It is the act of a writer’s imagination that I set most high.”
She received a Pulitzer Prize, the French Legion of Honor, the Howells’ Medal for Fiction, the Gold Medal for Fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the National Medal of Freedom, and the National Medal of the Arts. Welty is also known for the photographs she took of Depression-era Mississippi.
All of Welty’s writing is the product of a determined shaping imagination and a deep love and understanding for the power of carefully chosen language to evoke characters in dramatic motion. Her stories are very much created by her own art out of materials she found and was touched by: materials assembled by the artist’s eye.