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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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About Willa Cather

About Willa Cather

"Miss Cather is Nebraska's foremost citizen," wrote author and Nobel Prize-winner Sinclair Lewis. "The United States knows Nebraska because of Willa Cather's books."

Today Willa Cather is one of the most important American novelists of the first half of the twentieth century. Seen as a regional writer for decades after her passing in 1947, critics have increasingly identified Cather as a canonical American writer, the peer of authors like Hemingway, Faulkner and Wharton.

The eldest of seven children, Willa Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia in 1873. When Cather was nine years old, her family moved to rural Webster County, Nebraska. After a year and a half, the family resettled in the county seat of Red Cloud, where Cather lived until beginning her college studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1890.

After her graduation in 1895, Cather worked as a journalist and teacher, living first in Pittsburgh and later in New York City. Her first volume of poetry, April Twilights, was published by a vanity press in 1903, and in 1912 she was able to leave editorial work and live as a full-time writer and poet. Over the next several decades, Cather wrote prolifically; her works include Alexander’s Bridge (1912), O Pioneers! (1913), My Ántonia (1918), and A Lost Lady (1923), all of which explored the pioneering experience on the Plains. In 1923, One of Ours (1922) received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Her other well-regarded works include The Professor’s House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), Shadows on the Rock (1931), Lucy Gayheart (1935), and Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940).

As one of the greatest American novelists of the 20th century, Willa Cather was gifted in conveying an intimate understanding of her characters in relation to their personal and cultural environments—environments that often derived from Red Cloud.

Cather died from a cerebral hemorrhage on April 24, 1947 and was buried in the Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire. Engraved on her tombstone is this quotation from My Ántonia: “that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.” Complex and brilliant, Willa Cather lives on through her many devoted readers.

Willa Cather is the author of 12 novels, 6 collections of short fiction, 2 editions of her book of poetry, April Twilights, and numerous works of nonfiction, collected journalism, speeches, and letters. A bibliography can be found here.