Willa Cather


A picture of the author Willa Cather

Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 - April 24, 1947) was born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia on small farm that had been in her family for six generations. In 1883 the Cather family moved to Nebraska, relocating to the town of Red Cloud the following. That is the town where Willa spent the remainder of her childhood, and also the town she would later make famous in her writing. Willa insisted on attending college and her family borrowed money to send her to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After college she moved to Pittsburgh, and then to New York City where she went to work for McClure's Magazine.

As a writer, her early efforts were heavily influenced by Henry James. Sarah Orne Jewett advised Cather against relying so much on James influence and she came into her own voice when she focused her writing on the prairie, garnering popular and critical success culminating in the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours.

Willa Cather was an intensely private in her personal life and often destroyed old drafts, personal papers and letters. When she died, her will the ability of scholars to quote from the personal papers that remained. While attending the University of Nebraska, she sometimes wore men's clothing and used the nickname "William." Her primary relationships were with women, and she lived with the editor Edith Lewis from 1912 until her death in 1947. As you might imagine, scholars and feminists have busied themselves writing about her sexual orientation and the role of female relationships in her work. She was well respected by critics and other writers. H.L Mencken was fond of her writing and when Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature he said she should have won it instead.

My Antonia has been a favorite of readers here at American Literature and On The Gull's Road is a highly acclaimed short story.