After five decades of work, Eudora Welty stands among the most accomplished of America’s writers, and she is the living preeminent writer of the Southern experience. She has produced a large, original and enduring body of fiction including four novels, a novella, short stories and poems.
Eudora was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. She was educated at the Mississippi State College for Women and the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1929. Her father encouraged her to pursue a business career, and she attended the Columbia University School of Business in 1930-31 studying advertising. She did not feel a career of selling suited her, and she returned to Mississippi in 1931 at the depth of the Depression. She worked as a publicist for the WPA and traveled through all 82 Mississippi counties for three years.
With the eye of the amateur watercolor artist that she was, she gathered impression of people, places, towns and landscapes across Mississippi. She began to record some of those impressions in photography. These photographic studies had both historical and artistic value and were exhibited as early at 1936 and published in 1971. More importantly, these Mississippi experiences aroused her curiosity as a story writer to explore people and their lives. These early impressions would feed her imagination for many years and form the basis for much of her fiction.
Her works are largely Mississippian in setting and atmosphere, and with her humor, command of the Southern idiom and subject knowledge, she has crafted memorable fiction. While she has maintained the vitality of Southern regional fiction, it is important to note that attachment to place or "regionalism" is not restrictive to Eudora Welty but a means to get into the roots of what is constant in human experience. All the mystery lies within her characters, and Miss Welty gently probes the puzzles which human beings have about their thoughts and feelings as individuals.
Her first short stories were published in 1936. Interestingly, her first collection of pictures from her travels through Depression-stricken Mississippi were also exhibited at the same time.
Eudora Welty has been the recipient of a large number of honors, awards and fellowships. She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973 for "The Optimist’s Daughter." In 1981, she received the American Book Award and, in 1987, she won the National Medal of Arts. Just last month, she was honored by the National Book Foundation in New York for her "lifetime achievement" and "distinguished contribution to American letters."
Miss Welty’s works include the novels "Delta Wedding" (1946), "The Ponder Heart" (1954) and "Losing Battles" (1970); the novella "The Robber Bridegroom" (1942); her autobiography, "One Writer’s Beginnings" (1984), plus many short stories. "The Norton Book of Friendship," an anthology she co-edited with Ronald A. Sharp, was published in November.
In addition to her writing, she has held positions of lecturer, professor and fellow at several colleges and universities such as Smith, Bryn Mawr and Cambridge University.
This very private write has continued to live close to the source of her fiction. She has lived for years at the same private address in the family, brick home that her parents built in Jackson in the 1920s and she keeps the garden that she and her mother had cultivated together for many years. She has always been involved in local Southern life as, for example, a sustaining member of the Junior League of Jackson and a sponsor of various public and private events.