Mary Flannery O'Connor was born 25 March 1925 in Savannah, Georgia. (She dropped the "Mary" as soon as she could.) She was the only child of Regina Cline and Edward F. O'Connor. In 1938, the O'Connor family moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, a rural town in Baldwin County that proudly clung to its redneck roots. O'Connor once wrote that its unofficial motto was, "When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville."6
O'Connor was a bit of an odd kid, probably like that girl from your elementary school who spent the whole recess talking to herself and didn't care who saw. From an early age, she had a fondness for fowl. She sewed little outfits for her favorite chickens, and once spent a good deal of time teaching one to walk backward. When the bird finally mastered the stunt, a camera crew filmed the event, giving the young Mary Flannery a small taste of celebrity.
In 1941, Edward F. O'Connor died of systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks otherwise healthy tissues and organs. O'Connor was devastated by the loss of her father, one of the closest relationships in her life. At the time, there was no effective treatment for lupus; there still is no cure.
In 1942, seventeen-year-old Flannery O'Connor enrolled at Georgia State College for Women (GSCW), now Georgia College and State University. She was an active member of campus life, working as a writer and editor for the school literary magazine, the Corinthian. She also was a cartoonist for the yearbook, newspaper, and other campus publications. She entered GSCW on an accelerated three-year program and graduated with a degree in social studies in 1945. The 20-year-old then enrolled at the University of Iowa, intending to pursue a graduate degree in journalism. She soon realized that the profession didn't suit her. She approached Paul Engle, the director of the school's prestigious creative writing program, and asked if she might transfer into that. Engle became her first mentor, as well as a strong editor and advocate for her work. He said later that O'Connor was one of the most gifted writers he had ever instructed.7