Zelda Fitzgerald was born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., the youngest daughter of a prominent family. She read widely growing up but had little interest in school and preferred to focus on her social life. Zelda graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1918. That summer, she began dating F. Scott Fitzgerald, a soldier stationed in the Montgomery area, whom she had met at a local dance. Although Scott wanted to marry her, Zelda’s parents doubted his ability to support her. After Scott published This Side of Paradise, Zelda joined him in New York, where they married in 1920. The couple entered New York literary society and became publicly identified with the 1920s “Jazz Age,” on the basis of Scott’s writing and their party-filled lifestyle. Scott’s fiction made extensive use of Zelda’s diary and letters, and he patterned many of his heroines on her. Zelda herself began writing articles and short stories on “flappers,” which were published under both their names or under Scott’s name alone.
Through the 1920s and into the early 1930s, the Fitzgeralds moved frequently between Europe and the United States. Zelda continued her writing and took up painting and ballet, hoping to become a professional dancer. In 1930, however, Zelda entered a Swiss mental health clinic where she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although she spent most of the rest of her life in mental health facilities, she continued to write. In 1931, the Fitzgeralds returned to the United States and rented a house in Montgomery so that Zelda could be near her family. She had several breakdowns in early 1932 and entered a psychiatric hospital in Maryland. At the Maryland hospital, Zelda completed her novel, Save Me the Waltz, and collected her short stories and articles for publication in book form. From 1936 until her death in 1948, Zelda divided her time between Highland Hospital in Asheville, N.C., and her mother’s home in Montgomery. When Scott died in November of 1940, Zelda was too ill to attend his funeral. She died on March 10, 1948, trapped in a fire at Highland Hospital.
Zelda Fitzgerald’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, is largely autobiographical. Frequent subjects include the frenetic lifestyle of the 1920s and the young women known as “flappers.”
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Photo courtesy of Alabama Women's Hall of Fame.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.