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Willa Cather

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Title: Willa Cather  
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Subject: The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science, April Twilights, Death Comes for the Archbishop, O Pioneers! (film), The Song of the Lark
Collection: 1873 Births, 1947 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Episcopalians, 20Th-Century American Novelists, 20Th-Century American Poets, 20Th-Century Biographers, 20Th-Century Women Writers, American Biographers, American Expatriate Writers in Canada, American Magazine Writers, American People of Welsh Descent, American Women Novelists, American Women Poets, American Women Short Story Writers, American Women Writers, Critics of Christian Science, Deaths from Cerebral Hemorrhage, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Neurological Disease Deaths in New York, People from Grand Manan, People from Greenwich Village, People from the Upper East Side, People from Webster County, Nebraska, People from Winchester, Virginia, Poets from Nebraska, Poets from New York, Poets from Pennsylvania, Poets from Virginia, Pulitzer Prize for the Novel Winners, University of Nebraska–lincoln Alumni, Willa Cather, Women Biographers, Writers from Nebraska, Writers from New York City, Writers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Willa Cather

Willa Cather
Cather in 1912.
Born Wilella Sibert Cather
(1873-12-07)December 7, 1873
Gore, Virginia, United States
Died April 24, 1947(1947-04-24) (aged 73)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1905–1947

Willa Sibert Cather (;[1] December 7, 1873[2] – April 24, 1947[3]) was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I.

Cather grew up in Virginia and Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years.[4] At the age of 33 she moved to New York City, her primary home for the rest of her life, though she also traveled widely and spent considerable time at her summer residence in New Brunswick, Canada.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Writing influences 4
  • Literary style and themes 5
  • Later years 6
  • Legacy and honors 7
  • Bibliography 8
    • Nonfiction 8.1
    • Novels 8.2
    • Collections 8.3
  • Documentary 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life and education

One-and-a-half-story house with gable roof and small front porch; surrounded by picket fence
Willa Cather House, Red Cloud, Nebraska

Cather was born Wilella Sibert Cather in 1873 on her maternal grandmother's farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia (see Willa Cather Birthplace). Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Cather's family originated in Wales, the family name deriving from Cadair Idris, a mountain range in northwestern Wales.[2]:13 Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak (died 1931), a former school teacher. Within a year of Cather's birth, the family moved to Willow Shade, a Greek Revival-style home on 130 acres given to them by her paternal grandparents.

At the urging of Charles Cathers' parents, the family moved to Nebraska in 1883 when Willa was nine years old. The rich, flat farmland appealed to Charles' father, and the family wished to escape the tuberculosis outbreaks that were rampant in Virginia.[5] Willa's father tried his hand at farming for eighteen months; then he moved the family into the town of Red Cloud, where he opened a real estate and insurance business, and the children attended school for the first time.[2]:43 Cather's time in the western state, still on the frontier, was a deeply formative experience for her. She was intensely moved by the dramatic environment and weather, the vastness of the Nebraska prairie, and the various cultures of the European-American, immigrant and Native American families in the area.[3] Like Jim Burden in My Antonia the young Willa Cather saw the Nebraska frontier as a "place where there was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the materials out of which countries were made...Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out".[6]

Mary Cather had six more children after Willa: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie.[7] Cather was closer to her brothers than to her sisters whom, according to biographer Hermione Lee, she "seems not to have liked very much."[8]:36 Cather read widely, having made friends with a Jewish couple, the Weiners, who offered her free access to their extensive library.[9] She made house calls with the local physician, Dr. Robert Damerell, and decided to become a doctor.[10]

After Cather's essay on Thomas Carlyle was published in the Nebraska State Journal during her freshman year at the University of Nebraska,[2] she became a regular contributor to the Journal. She changed her plans to major in science and become a physician, instead graduating with a B.A. in English in 1894.


In 1896, Cather moved to Pittsburgh after being hired to write for the Home Monthly,[11] a women's magazine patterned after the successful Ladies' Home Journal.[2]:114 A year later, she became a telegraph editor and drama critic for the Pittsburgh Leader and frequently contributed poetry and short fiction to The Library, another local publication. In Pittsburgh, she taught Latin, algebra, and English composition.[2]:150 at Central High School for one year; she then taught English and Latin at Allegheny High School, where she became the head of the English department.

During her first year in Pittsburgh, Cather also wrote a number of short stories, including "Tommy, the Unsentimental," about a Nebraskan girl with a boy's name, who looks like a boy and saves her father's bank business. Janis P. Stout calls this story one of several Cather works that "demonstrate the speciousness of rigid gender roles and give favorable treatment to characters who undermine conventions."[12]

Cather's first collection of short stories, The Troll Garden, was published in 1905 by McClure, Phillips, and Company. It contains several of Cather's best-known stories—"A Wagner Matinee," "The Sculptor's Funeral," and "Paul's Case."

In 1906 Cather moved to New York City after being offered a position on the editorial staff of

External links

Archival sources

  • Cather, Willa, Andrew Jewell, and Janis Stout (2013). The Selected Letters of Willa Cather. NY: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-95930-0.
  • Howard, Jennifer. "Willa Cather in Her Own Words, at Last," Chronicle of Higher Education March 22, 2013]
  • Cather, Willa, and L. Brent Bohlke (1990). Willa Cather in Person: Interviews, Speeches, and Letters. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803263260.
  • Cather, Willa (2009). The Collected Works of Willa Cather Unexpurgated Edition excerpt and text search

Primary sources

  • Acocella, Joan (2002). Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1046-9.
  • Barclay, Donald A. (1994). "Willa Cather: Overview." Gay & Lesbian Literature. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale. ISBN 978-1-4144-3734-7.
  • Birns, Nicholas, ed (2012). Critical Insights: Willa Cather. Hackensack, NJ: Salem Press. ISBN 978-1587658266.
  • Daiches, David. (1971). Willa Cather: A Critical Introduction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0837152110
  • Meltzer, Milton (2007). Willa Cather: A Biography. Buffalo, NY: Twenty-First Century Press. ISBN 978-0822576044.
  • Woodress, James (1987). Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-4734-5.

Further reading

  1. ^ "Willa Cather" in The American Heritage Dictionary.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Woodress, James (1987). Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 516.   Cather's birth date is confirmed by a birth certificate and a January 22, 1874, letter of her father's referring to her. While working at McClure's Magazine, Cather claimed to be born in 1875. After 1920, she claimed 1876 as her birth year. That is the date carved into her gravestone at Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
  3. ^ a b "Willa Cather's Biography." Willa Cather Foundation website. Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  4. ^ "Journalist and Teacher, Writer and Poet, 1895–1912." Willa Cather Foundation website. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Lee, Hermoine. Willa Cather: Double Lives.NY:Pantheon, 1989, p. 30
  6. ^ Cather, Willa. My Antonia. NY:Mariner Books, 1995, p. 8
  7. ^ a b c Lewis, Edith (2000). Willa Cather Living: A Personal Record. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.  
  8. ^ a b c Lee, Hermione (1990). Willa Cather: Double Lives. New York: Pantheon Books.  
  9. ^ Acocella, Joan. Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, p. 7
  10. ^ Woodress, James. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987, p. 52
  11. ^ Lowry, Patricia (December 8, 2008). "Places: In search of Willa Cather's East End haunts".  
  12. ^ Stout, Janis P. Willa Cather: The Writer and Her World. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000, p. 90.
  13. ^ Crane, My Antonia p. 57.
  14. ^ The Atlantic. November 1912, p. 683.
  15. ^ Omaha World-Herald, April 9, 1921.
  16. ^ O'Brien, Sharon. "Being Noncanonical: The Case Against Willa Cather." Cathy N. Davidson (ed.), Reading in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.
  17. ^ a b O'Brien, p. 246.
  18. ^ Decker, James M. (April 2003). "Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism". Modern Language Review. 
  19. ^ Scott, Washington State University .
  20. ^ O'Brien, Sharon. Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice. New York: Oxford, 1987. pp. 96–113.
  21. ^ Gatenby, Greg (1993). The Wild is Always There: Canada through the eyes of foreign writers. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada. p. 214.  
  22. ^ Rolfe, Lionel. (2004). The Uncommon Friendship of Yaltah Menuhin & Willa Cather. American Legends/California Classics Books, 168 pp. ISBN 1-879395-46-0.
  23. ^ Sharistanian, Janet. Introduction to My Ántonia, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. xiii.
  24. ^ Bunyan, Patrick. All Around the Town: Amazing Manhattan Facts and Curiosities, p. 66. New York: Fordham University Press, 1999
  25. ^ "Cather's Life: Chronology". The Willa Cather Archive, University of Nebraska. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  26. ^ Acocella, Joan. Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, p. 4.
  27. ^ Ahern, Amy. "Willa Cather: Longer Biographical Sketch". The Willa Cather Archive, University of Nebraska. Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  28. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer. "O Revelations! Letters, Once Banned, Flesh Out Willa Cather." The New York Times. March 22, 2013, A1.
  29. ^ Curtin, William M., ed. The World and the Parish: Willa Cather's Articles and Reviews, 1893–1902. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1970, p. 248.
  30. ^ Cather, Willa. Willa Cather on Writing: Critical Studies on Writing as an Art. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1988, p. 48
  31. ^ Cather, Willa. Not Under Forty. New York: Knopf, 1936, p. 135.
  32. ^ Bennet, Mildred. The World of Willa Cather. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961, pp. 169–70.
  33. ^ Danker, Kathleen (Winter 2000). "The Influence of Willa Cather's French-Canadian Neighbors in Nebraska in Death Comes for the Archbishop and Shadows on the Rock." Great Plains Quarterly. p. 34.
  34. ^ Canby, Henry Seidel. "The 100 Outstanding Books of 1924–1944." Life Magazine, August 14, 1944. Chosen in collaboration with the magazine's editors.
  35. ^ Middleton, Joanne (1990). Willa Cather's Modernism: A Study of Style and Technique. Hackensack, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson. p. 27.
  36. ^ Middleton p. 36.
  37. ^ Curtin, William M. "Willa Cather: Individualism and Style." Colby Library Quarterly. June 1968, No. 2, p. 52.
  38. ^ a b  
  39. ^ Acocella, Joan, p. 6
  40. ^ Acocella,Joan. Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, p. 5
  41. ^ Urgo, Joseph R. Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995, p. 17
  42. ^ Rosowski, Susan. The Voyage Perilous: Willa Cather's Romanticism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press (1986), p. 45
  43. ^ Gatenby, Greg (1993). The Wild is Always There: Canada through the eyes of foreign writers. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada. p. 215.  
  44. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter C" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014. 
  45. ^ "One of Ours Won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for Writing Lost Lady"Author of .  
  46. ^ "Jaffrey: Willa Cather's Last Page". Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  47. ^ "Nebraska Hall of Fame Members". 
  48. ^ "U.S. Issues Two More Gold Medallions in Artists Series". The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA: Knight Ridder). November 4, 1984. p. R13. 
  49. ^ Lee, Hermoine (July 11, 2013). "Willa Cather: A Hidden Voice".  
  50. ^ Carolyn. "The Writing Life @NYSOCLIB: A Visit with Willa Cather". 
  51. ^ Andersen, Erin. "Red panda cubs named after two famous Nebraskans". Lincoln Journal-Star. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  52. ^ Zehring, Marilyn (June 14, 2009). "Summer Sundays at Library begin with Cather." Columbus Telegram. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  53. ^ "Cather's Life: Chronology". The Willa Cather Archive. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2007. 
  54. ^ "Cather's Writings: Short Fiction". The Willa Cather Archive. Archived from the original on July 2, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2007. 
  55. ^ Geyer, Joel; Giannone, Richard (September 8, 2005). "Willa Cather: The Road is All".  


Cather was the subject of the 2005 PBS documentary Willa Cather: The Road Is All.[55]


This does not include recent collections of early stories which were originally published in periodicals.[53] [54]





  • 1955, The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation (now the Willa Cather Foundation) was founded to support the study of her life and work, and to maintain many sites in her hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska.
  • 1956 – A library branch in Nebraska was opened in Willa Cather's name. It is part of the Omaha Public Library system, and it is located on the corner of 44th and Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • 1962, Cather was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.[47]
  • 1973, the U.S. Postal Service honored Willa Cather by issuing a stamp bearing her image.
  • 1981, the U.S. Mint created the Willa Cather half-ounce gold medallion.[48]
  • 1986, Cather was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
  • 2006, Willa Cather Foundation received a National Endowment of the Humanities grant "to develop its work, which includes maintaining a slice of Nebraskan prairie as “Catherland,” curating the Cather childhood home, holding Cather conferences, and publishing a Cather newsletter." [49]
  • 2010, Metropolitan Theater, New York, staged "Willa Cather: When The World Broke in Two" by playwright and theater artist Toni Schlesinger [50]
  • 2011, Cather was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame.
  • 2014, a red panda cub at the Lincoln Children's Zoo was named "Willa" in Cather's honour.[51]
  • A residence hall at the University of Nebraska is named for Cather.[52]
An American Arts Commemorative Series medallion depicting Cather

Legacy and honors

December 7, 1873–April 24, 1947
". . . that is happiness; to be dissolved
into something complete and great."
From My Antonia

Cather was buried in the Old Burying Ground, behind the Jaffrey Center Meeting House in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Her grave site, which she shares with Edith Lewis, is at the southwest corner of the graveyard. She had first visited Jaffrey in 1917 with Isabelle McClung, staying at the Shattuck Inn, where she came late in life for the seclusion necessary for her writing.[46] The inscription on her tombstone reads:

On April 24, 1947, Cather died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 73 in her home at 570 Park Avenue in Manhattan.[2]:504[45]

Although an inflamed tendon in her hand hampered her writing, Cather managed to finish a good part of a novel set in Avignon, France. However, Edith Lewis destroyed the manuscript, according to Cather's instructions, when Cather died. Cather's remaining papers reveal that Cather had titled the unfinished manuscript Hard Punishments and set it in the 14th century during the papal reign of Antipope Benedict XIV.[8]:371 She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1943.[44] In 1944, Cather received the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an award given once a decade for an author's total accomplishments.[2]:498 Though Cather suffered from no specific medical problems in her last years, those closest to her felt that her health was deteriorating.[2]:502

Cather grew increasingly discouraged as the United States moved closer to involvement in World War II. When the French army surrendered to Nazi Germany, Cather wrote in her diary: "There seems to be no future at all for people of my generation."[7]:184 During the summer of 1940, Cather and Lewis went to Grand Manan for the last time, and Cather finished what was to be her final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, a novel much darker in tone and subject matter than her previous works.[2]:483 Sapphira lacks a moral sense and is not a character who evokes empathy. However, the novel was a great critical and commercial success, with an advance printing of 25,000 copies. It was then adopted by the Book of the Month Club, which bought more than 200,000 copies.[2]:488

Cather suffered two devastating losses in 1938. In June, her favorite brother, Douglass, died of a heart attack. Cather was too grief-stricken to attend the funeral.[2]:478 Several months later, Isabelle McClung died. Cather and McClung had lived together when Cather first arrived in New York, and while McClung eventually married and moved with her husband to Toronto,[43] the two women remained devoted friends.[2]:139 Cather wrote friends that Isabelle was the one for whom all her books had been written.[2]:479

In 1932, Cather published Obscure Destinies, her final collection of short fiction, which contained one of her most highly regarded stories, "Neighbour Rosicky." Cather and Edith Lewis moved into a new apartment on Park Avenue, and Cather began work on her next novel, Lucy Gayheart, a book that revealed "its author's darkening vision as she began her seventh decade."[2]:449

Cather made her last trip to Red Cloud in 1931 for a family gathering following the death of her mother. She continued to stay in touch with her Red Cloud friends and she sent money to Annie Pavelka and other country families during the Depression years.[8]:327

Later years

The English novelist A. S. Byatt observes that with each work Cather reinvented the novel form "to look at a new human world."[38] Byatt identifies some of Cather's major themes as "the rising and setting of the sun, the brevity of life, the relation between dailiness and the rupture of dailiness, the moment when 'desire shall fail'."[38] Particularly in her frontier novels, Cather wrote of "life's terrors ... and its beauties".[39] Like the exiled characters of Henry James, an author who had a great influence on Cather, most of Cather's major characters live as exiled immigrants, "people trying to make their way in circumstances strange to them".[40] Joseph Urgo in Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration says Cather felt a connection between the immigrants' "sense of homelessness and exile" and her own feelings of exile when she lived on the frontier.[41] Susan Rosowski wrote that Cather was "the first to give immigrants heroic stature in serious American literature."[42]

She had formed and matured her ideas on art before she wrote a novel. She had no more reason to follow Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, whose work she respected, than they did to follow her. Her style solves the problems in which she was interested. She wanted to stand midway between the journalists whose omniscient objectivity accumulate more fact than any character could notice and the psychological novelist whose use of subjective point of view stories distorts objective reality. She developed her theory on a middle ground, selecting facts from experience on the basis of feeling and then presenting the experience in a lucid, objective style. Cather's style is not the accumulative cataloguing of the journalists, nor the fragmentary atomism of psychological associations.[37]

Although Cather began her writing career as a journalist, she made a distinction between journalism, which she saw as being primarily informative, and literature, which she saw as an art form.[35] Cather's work is often marked by its nostalgic tone, her subject matter and themes drawn from memories of her early years on the American plains. Some critics have charged Cather with being out of touch with her times and failing to use more experimental techniques, such as stream of consciousness, in her writing.[36] However, others have pointed out that Cather could follow no other literary path but her own:

Literary style and themes

During a brief stopover in Quebec with Edith Lewis in 1927, Cather was inspired to write a novel set in that French-Canadian city. Lewis recalled: "From the first moment that she looked down from the windows of the [Chateau] Frontenac [Hotel] on the pointed roofs and Norman outlines of the town of Quebec, Willa Cather was not merely stirred and charmed—she was overwhelmed by the flood of memories, recognition, surmise it called up; by the sense of its extraordinary French character, isolated and kept intact through hundreds of years, as if by a miracle, on this great un-French continent."[2] Cather finished her novel Shadows on the Rock, an historical novel set in 17th-century Quebec, in 1931; it was later included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books of 1924–1944.[34] The French influence is found in many other Cather works, including Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) and her final, unfinished novel set in Avignon.

Cather's high regard for the immigrant families forging lives and enduring hardships on the Nebraska plains shaped a good deal of her fiction. As a child, she visited immigrant families in her area and raced home in "the most unreasonable state of excitement," feeling that she "had got inside another person's skin."[32] Following a trip to Red Cloud in 1916 to visit her family, Cather decided to write a novel based on the events in the life of her childhood friend Annie Sadilek Pavelka, a Bohemian girl who became the model for the title character in My Ántonia.[2]:289 Cather was likewise fascinated by the French-Canadian pioneers from Quebec who had settled in the Red Cloud area while she was a girl.[33]

While Cather enjoyed the novels of Brontës, and Jane Austen, she regarded most women writers with disdain, judging them overly sentimental and mawkish.[2]:110 Cather's biographer James Woodress notes that Cather "so completely . . . embraced masculine values that when she wrote about women writers, she sounded like a patronizing man."[2]:110 One contemporary exception was Sarah Orne Jewett, who became Cather's friend and mentor. Jewett advised Cather to use female narrators in her fiction, but Cather preferred to write from a male point of view.[2]:214 Jewett also encouraged Cather to write about subjects that had "teased the mind" for years.[30] Chief among these subjects were the people and experiences Cather remembered from her years in Nebraska. She dedicated O Pioneers!, the first novel in her Prairie Trilogy, to Jewett. Cather also admired the work of Katherine Mansfield, praising Mansfield's ability "to throw a luminous streak out onto the shadowy realm of personal relationships."[31]

Cather admired Henry James as a "mighty master of language and keen student of human actions and motives."[29] She generally preferred past literary masters to contemporary writers. Some particular favorites were Dickens, Thackeray, Emerson, Hawthorne, Balzac, Flaubert, and Tolstoy.

Writing influences

A resolutely private person, Cather had destroyed many old drafts, personal papers, and letters. Her will restricted the ability of scholars to quote from the personal papers that remain. However, in April 2013, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather—a collection of 566 letters Cather wrote to friends, family, and literary acquaintances such as Thornton Wilder and F. Scott Fitzgerald—was published, two years following the death of Cather's nephew and second literary executor, Charles Cather. The letters do not reveal any intimate details about Cather's personal life, but they do "make clear that [her] primary emotional attachments were to women."[28]

Beginning in 1922, Cather spent summers on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, Canada, where she bought a cottage in Whale Cove, on the Bay of Fundy and where her penultimate short story, "Before Breakfast," is set.[27] It was the only house she ever owned.[2]:23 She valued the seclusion of the island, and did not mind that her cottage had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Anyone wishing to reach her could do so by telegraph or mail.[2]:415 She stopped going to Grand Manan Island when Canada entered World War II, since travel was more difficult, and Cather was experiencing a long recuperation from gall bladder surgery.[2]:496

Although she was born into a Baptist family, Cather began attending Episcopal services in 1906, and she joined the Episcopal Church in 1922.[26]

Cather's relationship with Edith Lewis began in the early 1900s. The two women lived together in a series of apartments in New York City from 1908 until the writer's death in 1947. From 1913 to 1927, Cather and Lewis lived at No. 5 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. They moved when the apartment was scheduled for demolition during the construction of the Broadway – Seventh Avenue New York City Subway line (now the 1 2 3 trains).[24] Cather selected Lewis as the literary trustee for her estate.[25]

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie in Webster County, Nebraska

Throughout Cather's adult life, her most significant friendships were with women. These included her college friend Louise Pound; the Pittsburgh socialite Isabelle McClung, with whom Cather traveled to Europe and at whose Toronto home she stayed for prolonged visits;[21] the opera singer Olive Fremstad; the pianist Yaltah Menuhin;[22] and most notably, the editor Edith Lewis, with whom Cather lived the last 39 years of her life. Cather's sexual identity remains a point of contention among scholars. While many argue for Cather as a lesbian and interpret her work through a lens of queer theory, a highly vocal contingent of Cather scholars adamantly oppose such considerations. For example, scholar Janet Sharistanian has written, "Cather did not label herself a lesbian nor would she wish us to do so, and we do not know whether her relationships with women were sexual. In any case, it is anachronistic to assume that if Cather's historical context had been different, she would have chosen to write overtly about homoerotic love."[23]

As a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, Cather sometimes used the masculine nickname "William" and wore masculine clothing.[20] A photograph in the University of Nebraska archives depicts Cather dressed like a young man and with "her hair shingled, at a time when females wore their hair fashionably long."[7]:38

Personal life

Cather's conservative politics and the same subject matter that appealed to Mencken, Randolph Bourne, and Carl Van Doren soured her reputation with younger, often left-leaning critics such as Hicks and Edmund Wilson.[18] Discouraged by the negative criticism of her work, Cather became reclusive. She burned letters and forbade anyone to publish them.[19]

Through the 1910s and 1920s, Cather was firmly established as a major American writer, receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her novel One of Ours. By the 1930s, however, critics began to dismiss her as a "romantic, nostalgic writer who could not cope with the present."[16] Critics such as Granville Hicks charged Cather with failing to confront "contemporary life as it is"[17] and escaping into an idealized past. During the hardships of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, her work was seen as lacking social relevance.[17]

Cather followed Alexander's Bridge with her Prairie Trilogy: O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). These works became both popular and critical successes. Cather was celebrated by national critics such as H. L. Mencken for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people. Sinclair Lewis praised her work for making "the outside world know Nebraska as no one else has done."[15]

McClure's serialized Cather's first novel, Alexander's Bridge (1912). Most reviews were favorable. The New York Times praised "the dramatic situations and the clever conversations,"[2]:225 and The Atlantic called the writing "deft and skillful."[14]

(1909). The Life of Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science in fourteen installments over the next eighteen months, and then in book form as McClure's "Mary Baker G. Eddy: The Story of Her Life and the History of Christian Science" was published in :194[2]

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