Eudora Welty's living female relatives include her nieces Mary Alice Welty White (director of the Eudora Welty House) and Liz Welty Thompson (librarian at the State Law Library) of Jackson; her great-nieces Leslie Thompson Jacobs (a Jackson social worker) and Elizabeth White (an Atlanta attorney); her great-great nieces Emily and Natalie Thompson (four-year-old Jackson pre-kindergartners).
Mary Alice Welty White's father died when she was young, so she spent many of her growing up years with her aunt, Eudora Welty, at Welty's house on Pinehurst Street in Belhaven.
Since Welty's death in 2001, Mary Alice White has devoted herself to turning the Eudora Welty House into a museum. Miss Eudora did not have central air conditioning, so White and her sister, Liz Welty Thompson, spent a very hot summer documenting everything in the house after Welty's death before getting the house renovated.
"It is very different to wear white gloves now in the house where I spent so much time as a child," White said.
White has fond memories of word games on Welty's porch and Christmas mornings inside Welty's house, but she is pleased with its recent transformation into a museum.
Thanks to Mary Alice White, Liz Thompson and countless others, the museum has been a great success in its short history. Open to the public since 2006, the house has already received guests from 45 states and 23 countries.
In addition to bringing tourists to Jackson from around the world, the museum also sees itself as an important landmark for local residents. White sees this role expanding with the addition of a new visitor's center next door in spring 2008.
Beyond the tangible legacy of Eudora Welty's house and writing, White believes that her aunt leaves a legacy for women that stresses the importance of both female independence and family ties.
"I learned from Eudora that to live a fulfilled life, you don't have to marry and have a family. You can live a full life through friends and work," White said.
White herself has a husband and three children. None of her children write, but she suspects that her daughter Elizabeth, an attorney, is the most likely to follow in Welty's literary footsteps. "Elizabeth has told me that she probably has a story in her, but she doesn't have the burning desire to write at the moment," White said.
I love this story. I didn't know that Eudora Welty never married or had children. She really was a strong woman because I'm sure people kept asking her when she was going to settle down, especially in the era she came from. I am also secure with myself being single and not having kids. I don't feel like I'm any less of a woman because of it, and I'm far from desperate because I believe that my life has a purpose. If I ever have a husband and children, fine, and if I don't, fine. Just let me do what I was put on this planet to do.
Eudora Welty: one of the original "chicks." :-)
That's a lovely story. I can't wait to see the Eudora Welty House on one of my next visits to Jackson.