Willa Sibert Cather was an American writer known for her novels of life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, a novel set during World War I.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Cather moved to Pittsburgh for ten years, supporting herself as a magazine editor and high school English teacher. At the age of 33, she moved again to New York City, her primary home for the rest of her life, though she also travelled widely and spent considerable time at her summer residence on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. She spent the last 39 years of her life with her domestic partner, Edith Lewis, before dying of a cerebral haemorrhage. She is buried alongside Lewis in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
Cather achieved recognition as a novelist of the frontier and pioneer experience. She wrote of the spirit of those settlers moving into the western states, many of them European immigrants in the nineteenth century. Common themes in her work include nostalgia and exile. A sense of place is an important element in Cather's fiction: physical landscapes and domestic spaces are for Cather dynamic presences against which her characters struggle and find community.
Cather was born in 1873 on her maternal grandmother's farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia. Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather. The Cather family originated in Wales, the name deriving from Cadair Idris, a Gwynedd mountain. Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak, a former school teacher. By the time Cather turned twelve months old, the family had moved to Willow Shade, a Greek Revival-style home on 130 acres given to them by her paternal grandparents.
In 1896, Cather was hired to write for a women's magazine, Home Monthly, moving in the process to Pittsburgh. There, she wrote journalistic pieces, short stories, and poetry. A year later, after the magazine was sold, she became a telegraph editor and critic for the Pittsburgh Leader and frequently contributed poetry and short fiction to The Library, another local publication. In Pittsburgh, she taught Latin, algebra, and English composition at Central High School for one year; she then taught English and Latin at Allegheny High School, where she came to head the English department.
Cather was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 1945 and had a mastectomy on January 14, 1946. Probably by early 1947, her cancer metastasized to her liver, becoming stage IV cancer. About a year later, on April 24, 1947, Cather died of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 73, in her home at 570 Park Avenue in Manhattan. Following Cather's death, Edith Lewis destroyed the manuscript of Hard Punishments, according to Cather's instructions.
Books by Willa Cather
My Ántonia is a novel published in 1918 by American writer Willa Cather, considered one of her best works. The novel tells the stories of an orphaned boy from Virginia, Jim Burden, and the elder daughter in a family of Bohemian immigrants, Ántonia S...
O Pioneers! is a 1913 novel by American author Willa Cather, written while she was living in New York. This is her second published novel.
Youth and the Bright Medusa, and The Troll Garden
Youth And The Bright Medusa comprises eight short stories published in 1920. Four of them (The Sculptor’s Funeral; A Death In The Desert; A Wagner Matinee; Paul’s Case) are re-worked from an earlier collection, The Troll Garden, published in 1905. Th...
The Song of the Lark
The book tells the story of a talented artist born in a small town in Colorado who discovers and develops her singing voice. Her story is told against the backdrop of the burgeoning American West in which she was born in a town along the rail line, o...
One of Ours
One of Ours is a 1922 novel by Willa Cather that won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. It tells the story of the life of Claude Wheeler, a Nebraska native in the first decades of the 20th century. The son of a successful farmer and an intensely...
Alexander's Bridge is the first novel by American author Willa Cather. First published in 1912, it was re-released with an author's preface in 1922. It also ran as a serial in McClure's, giving Cather some free time from her work for that magazine....
The Professor's House
The Professor's House is a novel by American novelist Willa Cather. Published in 1925, the novel was written over the course of several years. Cather first wrote the centerpiece, “Tom Outland's Story,” and then later wrote the two framing chapters “T...
My Mortal Enemy
It explores the complex relationships between two women, Nellie Birdseye and Myra Henshawe, who have been friends since childhood. The novel delves into the intense and passionate bond between the two women, as well as the power dynamics that shape t...
A Lost Lady
It transports readers to the enchanting landscapes of the American West, offering a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the ever-changing nature of society. This timeless novel resonates with readers of all ages, captivating young minds, with its...