Mary Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 25, 1925 to Edward F. O’Connor and Regina Cline. She described herself as a “pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.” The O'Connors moved from Savannah to Atlanta in 1938 just before Flannery's 13th birthday and then to Milledgeville the following year. Her father was diagnosed with lupus and passed away on February 1, 1941 when Flannery was 15-years-old.
Flannery attended St. Vincent's Academy and Sacred Heart School while in Savannah. Upon moving to Milledgeville, she attended and graduated from Peabody High School. After graduation, she entered Georgia State College for Women in an accelerated three-year program, graduating in June 1945 with a Social Science degree. In 1946, she was accepted to the University of Iowa on a Journalism scholarship with the intention of being a professional cartoonist. However, after only one semester, she transferred into the the now prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop. While there, she wrote her first published short story, "The Geranium." Following the University of Iowa, she spent a summer at Yaddo before moving in with her close friends, Sally and Robert Fitzgerald, in Connecticut.
In 1951, Flannery was diagnosed with disseminated lupus so returned to Georgia, settling at Andalusia, her mother's family farm 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 love of unique birds 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 with such famous writers as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. She never married, relying for companionship on her many correspondences and on her close relationship with her mother, Regina.
End of Life
While battling lupus, Flannery completed more than two dozen short stories and two novels. On August 3, 1964, complications from the same disease that had taken her father's life at 45, took hers at 39. She is buried in Milledgeville, Georgia, at Memory Hill Cemetery with her parents.
Flannery O’Connor was the three-time winner of the O. Henry Award and the posthumous winner of the 1972 National Book Award for Fiction. In 2015, she was honored with a postage stamp from the United States Postal Service. Her childhood home and family's farm, Andalusia, are both historic landmarks and museums today.
“The fact is that anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can't make something out of a little experience, you probably won't be able to make it out of a lot.”
- Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners