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Willa Cather

1876-1947

American author

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Willa Cather

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Willa Siebert Cather

Cather in 1936.
Born Wilella Siebe Cather
December 7, 1873
near Winchester, Virginia, United States
Died April 24, 1947 (aged 73)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1905 - 1947

Willa Siebert Cather (December 7, 1873[1]– April 24, 1947) was an American author who grew up in Nebraska. She is best known for her depictions of frontier life on the Great Plains in novels such as O Pioneers!,My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark.

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 Biography

Born Wilella Siebert Cather in 1873 on a small farm in the Back Creek valley near Winchester, Virginia. Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak (d. 1931). Mary had six more children after Willa: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie.[2] In 1883, Cather moved with her family to Catherton in Webster County, Nebraska. The following year the family relocated to Red Cloud, the county seat. Cather spent the rest of her childhood in the town which she later made famous by her writing career. When Willa Cather insisted on attending college, her family borrowed money for her to attend the University of Nebraska.

While in college, Cather became a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal. Later she moved to Pittsburgh. After receiving a job offer from McClure's Magazine, she moved to New York City for her career. McClure's Magazine serialized her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, a work heavily influenced by her admiration for the style of Henry James.

Cather was born into a Baptist family, but in 1922 joined the Episcopal Church. After moving to New York, she began to attend Sunday services in the Episcopal Church as early as 1906.[3]

Cather died on April 24, 1947 in New York City of a cerebral hemorrhage and was buried in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.[4][5]

 Writing career

Cather moved to join the editorial staff of McClure's and in 1908 was promoted to managing editor. As a journalist, she co-authored, alongside Georgina M. Wells, a critical biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. It was serialized in McClure's in 1907-8 and published the next year as a book. Christian Scientists were outraged and tried to buy up every copy. The work was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993. In 1942 Cather met a variety of authors in New York. Sarah Orne Jewett advised her to rely less on the influence of Henry James and more on her own experiences in Nebraska. For her novels, Cather returned to the prairie for inspiration and also drew on her experiences in France. These works became both popular and critical successes.

In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, published in 1922. This work had been inspired by reading her cousin G.P. Cather's wartime letters home to his mother. He was the first officer from Nebraska killed in World War I. Those letters are now held in the George Cather Ray Collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries.

Cather was celebrated by critics like H.L. Mencken for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people. When novelist Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he paid homage to her by saying that Cather should have won the honor.

Later critics tended to favor more experimental authors. In times of political activism some agreed with Cather, a political conservative, for writing about conditions of ordinary people, rather than working to change them.


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