Willa Cather was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark.
At age 21 she was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Nebraska (1902). She received critical recognition for her first novel, O Pioneers! (1913), and her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Song of the Lark (1915).
Following My Ántonia (1918) she experimented with poetic modernist forms, drawing on past traditions. She won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for one of these experimental works, One of Ours (1922), set during World War I. From this point onward Willa Cather devoted herself to historical fiction set in Nebraska and other regions of the American Midwest; she also explored more thoroughly than before the topic of sexuality which had interested her since ” Alexander’s Bridge “, published in 1920.
She was strongly influenced by natural landscapes, as shown by her Willa Cather’s Collected Short Fiction: A Guide to the Short Stories and Other Writings.
Cather grew up in Virginia and Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years (1905–15). With her partner, Edith Lewis, she moved to New York City, where they pursued their writing careers. After Cather’s death, Lewis collected Willa Cather’s letters into a biography ” Willa Cather: A Memoir “(1953) known for its frankness about the couple’s relationship; it was republished in 2000 as ” Willa: The Letters of Willa Cather “.
Willa Cather’s life has been divided into three periods of focus: the “prairie years” (1873-1902), the “European years” (1902-1918), and St. Louis, Missouri (1918-1947) where she lived on her own estate, called Steepletop. Willa Cather was born near Winchester, Virginia, but grew up in small towns along the Ohio River in West Virginia and Nebraska as well as briefly in Colorado. Willa was very attached to her childhood home at Back Creek Valley Farm , which is now open to visitors for a fee. In April 2008 Willa Cather Foundation acquired nearby Willa Cather birthplace farm .
Willa Cather had a legacy of strong women, perhaps seen in her Willa Cather Foundation which sustains Willa Cather’s home and legacy to this day. Willa’s mother was a school teacher and apparently one of Willa’s teachers as well. Willa also had two sisters and an older brother, along with ten years between her youngest sister and herself. Willa is often quoted saying that she felt like an only child since there were so many years between them and Willa thought her little sister didn’t really know who Willa was when they were growing up together.
Willa Cather considered her family to be poor but not deprived even during the time of the depression of 1873 . They did not keep slaves or have expensive possessions, but Willa’s family had lots of books and Willa learned to read at an early age. Willa’s first school was in Mrs. Grant’s one room log cabin she helped to clean each day for six weeks before the term started. Willa loved school so much she decided to pretend she was ill so she wouldn’t have to return home until it was time for vacation, but her mother caught on pretty quickly!
Willa later went to college after high school starting at the University of Nebraska where Willa majored in English Literature. Willa graduated from there with a bachelor degree in 1894 . She then moved on to Johns Hopkins University for graduate studies but wasn’t able to finish right away because her grandmother died back home. When Willa finally went back to finish her graduate degree, Willa decided to switch her major to history which she finished in 1897 . Willa Cather started writing after college, while teaching for a year or two before starting work at McClure’s magazine.
Willa still found time during this busy stretch of life to fall in love with the older editor of McClure’s, Isabelle who Willa met through mutual friends. Willa and Isabelle traveled Europe together but only stayed there for about six months so Willa could finish some deadlines and also learn more about war and WWI . Willa Cather would later write about these experiences in One of Ours -which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 . Her “prairie years” were over with most of Willa’s life spent in other places. Willa lived much of her later life in New York and Pennsylvania where she met Edith Lewis who Willa said was “the best friend I ever had.
They lived together from 1926 when Willa Cather moved to the city until Willa died in 1947 . Willa’s estate, called Steepletop , is a National Historic Landmark and preserves Willa’s home and gardens as well as surrounding land which has been used for farming over the years. The Willa Cather Foundation continues to take care of Willa Cather homes today. I hope this article about Willa Cather’s life was informative and helps you understand many things about Willa including what kinds of themes Willa Cather writes about and Willa’s biography. Willa Cather’s life is one of many themes in Willa Cather’s work.
Willa also writes about life and living on a farm as well as death- which Willa always said was not depressing, but natural and perhaps more beautiful than life itself . Willa also wrote about strong women who made their own way through life and who Willa felt she related to the most. There are lots of other themes Willa writes about as well such as having your heart broken, love between men and women, immigration, WWI , war, wealth, poverty, storytelling and even writing itself which makes her works rich with many different things to think about!