She was also an accomplished and published photographer. But it is for her fiction, usually set in the rural South, that she's known as the First Lady of Southern Literature.
She continued to live in her family house in Jackson until her death from natural causes on July 23, 2001. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson. On her headstone is a quote from The Optimist's Daughter: "For her life, any life, she had to believe, was nothing but the continuity of its love."
- From 1925 to 1927, Welty studied at the Mississippi State College for Women, then transferred to the University of Wisconsin to complete her studies in English Literature. She studied advertising at Columbia University at the suggestion of her father. Because she graduated at the height of the Great Depression, she struggled to find work in New York.
In 1936, she published her first story "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".
Soon after her first novel was published, she stopped writing to care full-time for her family for fifteen years: for two brothers with severe arthritis and her mother who had had a stroke. After her mother died in 1966, she returned to writing.
She continued to write, and won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 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 University and eventually turned the speeches into a three-part book entitled "One Writer's Beginnings".
While Welty worked as a publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration, she took photographs of people from all economic and social classes in her spare time. From the early 1930s, her photographs show Mississippi's rural poor and the effects of the Great Depression. Collections of her photographs were published as "One Time, One Place" (1971) and "Photographs" (1989). Her photography was the basis for several of her short stories, including "Why I Live at the PO", which was inspired by a woman she photographed ironing in the back of a small post office. Although focused on her writing, Welty continued to take photographs until the 1950s.
She was a 6-time winner of the O. Henry Award for Short Stories, and her many awards include the National Medal for Literature, the American Book Award, and, in 1969, a Pulitzer Prize.
1983 – Invited by Harvard University to give the first annual Massey Lectures in the History of American Civilization, revised and published as One Writer's Beginnings
1996 – Made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by the French government
1998 – First living author to have her works published in the prestigious Library of America series.
1925 - 1927
1927 - 1929
1930 - 1931
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