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O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah, Georgia, the only child of Edward F. O’Connor and Regina Cline.  Her father was diagnosed with lupus in 1939; he died on February 1, 1941 when Flannery was 15.


O’Connor described herself as a “pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.”  Of her first brush with celebrity, O’Connor said, “When I was five I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathe News.  I was in it too with the chicken.  I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life.  Everything since has been anticlimax.”


O’Connor attended the Peabody Laboratory School, from which she graduated in 1942.  She entered Georgia State College for Women, in an accelerated three-year program, and graduated in June 1945 with a Social Sciences degree.  In 1946, she was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, where she first went to study journalism.  While there she got to know several important writers and critics who lectured or taught in the program, among them Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe-Ransom, Robie Macauley, Austin Warren and Andrew Lytle, for many years editor of the Sewanee Review, was one of the earliest admirers of O’Connor’s fiction.  He later published several of her stories in the Sewanee Review, as well as critical essays on her work.


In 1951, she was diagnosed with disseminated lupus, and subsequently returned to Georgia, settling at her mother's farm, Andalusia, in Milledgeville.  Although expected to live only five more years, she managed thirteen. At Andalusia, she raised and nurtured some 100 peafowl.  She describes her peacocks in an essay entitled “The King of Birds.”  Despite her sheltered life, her writing reveals an uncanny grasp of the nuances of human behavior. She was a devout Catholic.  She collected books on Catholic theology and at times gave lectures on faith and literature, traveling quite far despite her frail health.  She also maintained a wide correspondence, including such famous writers as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop.  She never married, relying for companionship on her correspondence and on her close relationship with her mother, Regina Cline O’Connor.


O’Connor completed more than two-dozen short stories and two novels while battling lupus.  She died on August 3, 1964, at the age of 39, of complications from lupus, at Baldwin County Hospital and was buried in Milledgeville, Georgia, at Memory Hill Cemetery.  Her mother Regina died in 1995 at the age of 99.

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