Willa Cather Biography

Willa Cather Biography

Willa Cather’s name has become synonymous with the pioneering spirit of the American West. Novels like O Pioneers!, Song of the Lark, and My Antonia feature largely female characters cast into a world in which they are forced to contend with the overwhelming space and barrenness of the Midwest. Much of the drama of these early works arises not only from the isolation of the landscape but also the isolation of the immigrants who have left their homes in Europe to pursue the American Dream. Language barriers and cultural barriers often made for a lonely existence for these pioneers, struggles which stem from Cather’s own life. Her family moved south from Quebec, crossing six states by covered wagon before finally settling in Nebraska. In addition to her novels, short stories, and poetry, Cather also worked for many years as an editor. She died in 1947.

Facts and Trivia

  • Cather entered the University of Nebraska in 1895 disguised as her fictional twin brother, William Cather.
  • She worked as the managing editor of McClure’s magazine for many years until author Sarah Orne Jewett advised her to quit and seriously pursue a career as a writer.
  • Cather sustained a forty-year relationship with her nearly life-long companion, Edith White. Although a lesbian, Cather remained closeted all of her life. Still, there is subtext in most of her novels that reveals her feelings about sexuality.
  • A lover of life, Cather is quoted as saying, “I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.”
  • The state of Nebraska has declared a portion of protected land the “Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.”
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The 20th Century)
  • Biography
  • Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)
  • Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)
  • Biography (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)
  • Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography
  • Biography
  • Biography
  • Biography
  • Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Biography

(The entire section is 9250 words.)