In novels as varied as My Ántonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather created eloquently written portraits of individuals whose lives achieve a universality of experience and feeling within the confines of very specific, and often unremarkable, settings.
In Cather’s best works, the courage and strength of the human spirit are brought vividly to life in stories that capture crucial moments in the history of the American frontier. In the midst of situations that test the limits of their endurance, Cather’s characters are helping to shape the face of a changing nation as the threads of their quiet, individual stories are woven together in the fabric of history.
Willa Sibert Cather moved with her family from Virginia to Nebraska when she was only nine years old, a move that was to influence her mind and art throughout her life. As a student at the University of Nebraska, she wrote for various college magazines; she also became a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal, publishing book, theater, and concert reviews, as well as commentary on the passing scene. Even after she moved to Pittsburgh to take an editorial job, she continued to send columns home to the Nebraska State Journal. Later she also began contributing to the Lincoln Courier. She taught English in Pittsburgh (an experience that became the source for one of her most famous short stories, “Paul’s Case”) and then moved to New York to take a position with McClure’s Magazine. After the publication of her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, in 1912, she left McClure’s Magazine, financially able to devote full time to her creative work. Over the next three decades, she published successfully and to critical acclaimed.
Wilella Sibert Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, on December 7, 1873, the first of seven children. Her father’s side of the family settled in Virginia during colonial times. Her grandfather, William Cather, was opposed to slavery and favored the Union cause during the Civil War, creating a rift in a family of Confederate sympathizers. Her grandfather on her mother’s side, William Boak, served three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates. He died before Cather was born, while serving in Washington in the Department of the Interior. Cather’s maternal grandmother, Rachel Boak, returned with her children to Back Creek Valley and eventually moved to Nebraska with her son-in-law Charles, Willa Cather’s father, and...
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Willa Sibert Cather stands as one of the major novelists and interpreters of the American pioneer experience. She was the oldest child of Charles and Mary Virginia (née Boak) Cather. When she was nine, her father decided to homestead with his relatives on the divide between the Little Blue and Republican Rivers, northwest of Red Cloud, Nebraska. Cather later remembered her first impressions of the cold, flat, naked prairie, stretching on to the horizon. After a year of homesteading, Charles Cather moved his family back into Red Cloud and opened a farm mortgage office.
Cather was a precocious and unconventional child, excelling at school, absorbing the culture of immigrant families, and seeking out adult company....
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Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873, but her family moved to Nebraska when Cather was just nine years old. She thus matured on the Great Plains at a time when they were still raw and sparsely inhabited. Many of Cather’s best-known works, such as O Pioneers! and My Antonia, were based on personal experience from living in the areas described. Cather herself said that she often drew inspiration from the land and from the people she knew, especially in the early years when most of her neighbors were immigrants.
Cather graduated from high school in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and later went to the University of Nebraska. She had not intended to become a writer—she had instead planned to study science—but attention to her written work soon led her in that direction. She wrote for The Nebraska State Journal, and then, not long after college, Cather moved to Pittsburgh where she taught English and Latin and wrote and did editorial work for two magazines. After Pittsburgh, Cather moved to New York, where she edited the influential magazine McClure’s.
Cather’s first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, was not published until 1912. O Pioneers! followed in 1913. It was the first of her works to integrate her childhood in Nebraska, material she returned to in One of Ours, a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923.
In addition to her formal studies, Cather, like her character Claude Wheeler, was defined by two other factors: her travels and her close companions. Cather traveled to Europe, journeyed throughout the American southwest, and spent summers at the Bay of Fundy in North America. As an adult, she had close, extended relationships with a number of women. Cather died in 1947.
Willa Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, near Gore, Virginia, on December 7, 1873. Christened Wilella and called by the nickname “Willie” throughout her childhood, Cather later adopted the name Willa. The daughter of Charles Cather, a farmer, and his wife, Mary Virginia Boak Cather, she was the eldest of the couple’s four children, who also included brothers Roscoe and Douglass and a second daughter, Jessica.
Although the Cather family had long been established in the small Virginia community where Willa was born, a general westward migration of family members, sparked by the railroad’s opening of the Great Plains states to increasing numbers of settlers, was already under way at the time of Cather’s...
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