Willa Cather: 1873-1947

Born in December,
Raised in Nebraska

catherYou probably recognize the name of Willa Cather, author of My Ántonia , O Pioneers!, and The Song of the Lark and consider her one of ours. You may know that many of her best known books were influenced by her childhood in Red Cloud, Nebraska (population 987); the house where she lived there is a state historic site.

Here are 7 things you may not know:

  1. She lived in Nebraska only 13 years, from 1883 to 1896. Born in Virginia as Wilella Cather on December 7, 1873, her family moved to Nebraska when she was nine.
  2. Though some of her novels are set in Nebraska, others are set in New York, San Francisco, New Mexico, Quebec, and France; her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, was set in her birthplace of Virginia.
  3. She moved to Lincoln in 1890 to study at the University of Nebraska, intending to study science and medicine. After a Lincoln newspaper published an essay her English professor submitted, her name in print had an “hypnotic effect” on her, and she decided to become a writer.
  4. She is the only American woman writer included in the Encyclopedia Britannica’s list of “Great Books of the Western World” (1990).
  5. Before she was a novelist, she was a journalist. Beginning as an editor, in Pittsburgh, she eventually became managing editor of McClure’s Magazine in New York City.
  6. Her most famous book, My Ántonia , was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize but didn’t win it. That honor came with her book set in World War I, One of Ours.
  7. Cather died in her home in New York on April 24, 1947, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 73 years old.

Sources: PublishersWeekly.com; University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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