Oscar had left Kate with a failing business and six small children to raise. She ran the store, paid off the debt, and managed the property for two years before moving back to St. Louis to live closer to her mother and to provide better educational opportunities for her children. Some theorists say that Kate also wanted to leave Albert Sampite, a married man whom many believe she had a romantic affair with after Oscar's death.
Her mother died a year after Kate returned to St. Louis. Her mother's death affected her the most. She had barely recovered from Oscar's sudden death only to face her mother's sudden death. As a result, she was reintroduced to one of her favorite childhood activities: writing. After the death of her mother, Dr. Frederick Kolbenheyer, her obstetrician and family doctor, recognized the eloquence in her letters and encouraged her to write short stories as a form of therapy. Much like Madam O'Meara at the academy, Dr. Kolbenheyer recognized Kate's literary style of writing in the letters she wrote to him and her friends. He believed women should not be discouraged from having careers and advised Kate to write as a means of emotional therapy and financial support. She later models Dr. Mandelet in "The Awakening" after him.
She published her first short story, "A Point at Issue!" in the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" on October 27, 1889 and a few months later, "Philadelphia Musical Journal" published "Wiser Than God." Her first novel, "At Fault" is published in September 1890 at her own expense. Around this same time, she became a charter member of the Wednesday Club, which was founded by Charlotte Stearns Eliot, T.S Eliot's mother. She eventually resigned from the club and satirized it in her later works. She continued writing and publishing more stories in magazines and newspapers such as "Vogue," "Youth's Companion," and "Harper's Young People," but it wasn't until March 1894 when Houghton Mifflin published "Bayou Folk" that Kate became nationally known as a short story writer. She published a second volume of short stories, "A Night in Acadie," in November 1897.
Herbert S. Stone & Company published her most famous work, "The Awakening," in 1899. Many have believed that her book was banned due to its "controversial" topics dealing with women, marriage, sexual desire, and suicide. According to Emily Toth, the book was never banned, but it did receive negative reviews. The following year, Herbert S. Stone and Company reversed its decision to publish a third collection of short stories. Kate did not write much afterwards because no one would buy her stories. Her last published story was "Polly" in 1902. Two years later, Kate collapses at the St. Louis World's Fair and dies two days later from complications of a stroke.
After her death, her writings were ignored until 1932 when Daniel Rankin published "Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories," the first biography on Kate, but his text presents a very limited view and showed her only as a local colorist. It wasn't until 1969 when Per Seyersted published "Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography," which sparked a new age of Chopin readers. Ten years later, he and Emily Toth publish a collection of Kate's letters and journal entries called A "Kate Chopin Miscellany". Both Seyersted and Toth have taken a great interest in the writer and have provided the world more access to Chopin's life and work. In 1990, Toth published one of the most comprehensive biographies on Chopin and a year later, she published Kate's third volume of short stories, "A Vocation and A Voice," the volume Herbert S. Stone and Company refused to publish. In the past two years, Toth and Seyersted have released another text titled "Kate Chopin's Private Papers" and Toth published another biography, "Unveiling Kate Chopin". Both books include journal entries, manuscripts, and other information discovered in the past 10 years.