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Eudora Welty's 108th Birthday- April 13, 2017

Posted on

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 1:14pm

by

Jennifer Ford

Eudora Alice Welty was born in Jackson, MS on April 13, 1909 and would have been 108 today. An author of prodigious talent, she penned ten collected works of short stories, six novels, and two volumes of essays during her lifetime, receiving international recognition for her work.

Welty's first short story, "Death of a Traveling Salesman", was published in 1936 and only five years later her short story collection, A Curtain of Green, was released. This work included such iconic short stories as "Why I Live at the P.O.", "Petrified Man", and "A Worn Path." The latter won second place for the 1941 O. Henry Award, whose volumes were edited by fellow Mississippian Herschel Brickell. Welty went on to win first place in 1942, 1943,and 1968.

Welty's first novel, The Robber Bridegroom, established the author as a rising literary force, not only amongst Southern authors but nationwide. Described by scholars as a fairy tale of the South, this work is considered by many to be one of her best. In 1973 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her moving novel, The Optimist's Daughter. In addition, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the William Dean Howells Medal for Fiction, the National Book Award, the National Medal of Arts, as well as countless other awards, honorary doctorates, and other forms of recognition.

In the 2005 publication, Eudora Welty: A Biography, scholar and friend of the author Dr. Suzanne Marrs, captured the spirit of the literary icon in her introduction: "Over the course of her ninety two years, Eudora engaged the world with all her powers and never retreated into a single, narrowly defined role. Openness to experience complemented her creative genius and helped her to produce some of the most memorable fiction of the twentieth century. She was not the contentedly cloistered 'Miss Eudora' in whom so many believed or wanted to believe, but was someone far more passionate and compelling: a woman and a writer with a 'triumphant vulnerability...to the mortal world.'" (xix)

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) is the primary repository for Eudora Welty's impressive archival collection. In addition, the Eudora Welty House and Garden is a National Historic Landmark and was meticulously restored by MDAH. Both the home and the extensive gardens are visited by thousands of fans of the author each year, as it is one of the most intact residences of an author in the country. Eudora lived in the home for seventy-six years of her life, until her death in 2001.

Featured below is a page from the Mary Ellen Wilcox Larche Scrapbook held in the Department of Archives and Special Collections in the University of Mississippi's J.D. Williams Library. A close childhood friend of the author, Mary Ellen meticulously recorded the activities of her friends in Jackson's Central High School in the mid-1920s. The candid snapshots of the author and her friends below reveal the author's infectious sense of humor.

Mary Ellen Wilcox Larche Scrapbook