Short Fiction Collections1. The Troll Garden (1905)2. Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920)3. Obscure Destinies (1932)4. The Old Beauty and Others (1948)5. Willa Cather's Collected Short Fiction, 1892-1912 (1965)6. Uncle Valentine and Other Stories: Willa Cather's Uncollected Short Fiction, 1915-1929 (1972) Poetry1. April Twilights (1903)2. April Twilights and Other Poems (1923)
Ten Things About Willa Cather
Although many readers dearly love Willa Cather's novels--My Ántonia, O Pioneers!, and Death Comes for the Archbishop are among the favorites--they may be surprised that the Cather who emerges from the pages of her books is not necessarily the real Cather. She did not spend her life on a farm on the Great Plains raising a multitude of children, like Ántonia, devote herself to the Catholic Church, like Bishop Latour, or exert her charms on a sequence of admiring men, like Mrs. Forrester. She lived the last four decades of her life in New York City as a fiercely independent, opinionated, highly intelligent, practical, often affectionate, and sometimes cantankerous writer.
Here are ten things you probably didn't know about one of America's greatest novelists:
1. Although she is usually thought of as a Nebraskan, Cather was actually a Virginian by birth. Her family didn't move to Nebraska until she was nine. Only some of her novels are set on the Great Plains. Others are set in New York and San Francisco, in New Mexico, in Quebec, in France, and, in the case of her last one, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, back in Virginia.
2. Cather's given name was Wilella, but her family always called her "Willa" or, probably even more often, "Willie," which was a common Southern pronunciation of a name ending in -a. She signed herself "Willie" or "Aunt Willie" in many of her family letters for most of her life (and, occasionally, as a child, when she was feeling particularly interested in science, as "William Cather, M. D."). In 1936, she reflected on her unusual first name in a letter to a reader: "I never liked my own first name. I never like feminine forms of masculine names, in fact. If I had known, when I first began to write, that my name would be printed about a good deal, I would certainly have changed it to Mary or Jane, or Janet."
3. While a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, she wrote theater and music reviews for the Nebraska State Journal newspaper that were often so unrelenting in their critique that she developed a reputation among the traveling performers as a real "meat ax" critic.
4. Raised as a Baptist, Cather later became Episcopalian, but had two of her greatest successes with books so steeped in Catholicism that readers thought she was a Catholic. In fact, in a letter written from Pittsburgh in August 1896, she told a friend, "There is no God but one God and Art is his revealer; that’s my creed and I'll follow it to the end, to a hotter place than Pittsburgh if need be."
5. Her first book, in 1903, was neither a novel nor a collection of short stories but a volume of poetry called April Twilights published with a high-end vanity press, and she continued to write poetry for most of her life.
6. Cather was one of the country's most successful woman journalists before she was a novelist. Her first job out of college was as editor of a magazine called The Home Monthly, in Pittsburgh, and in 1906 she went to work for the phenomenally successful McClure's Magazine in New York, later becoming managing editor. According to a letter she wrote in 1908, her boss, the inimitable S. S. McClure, told her "that he does not think I will ever be able to do much at writing stories, that I am a good executive and I had better let it go at that." In 1912, she left her job with McClure's to become a very successful full-time writer.
7. Cather is now widely understood as a lesbian. She lived for 38 years in domestic partnership with Edith Lewis, a professional editor, in New York City. Lewis's editorial skills probably contributed to Cather's elegant prose style, as the two of them went over her novels together before publication.
8. Cather said O Pioneers!, which was published in 1913, was her second "first novel" because it was the book where she where she hit her home turf and found her own voice: "This was like taking a ride through a familiar country on a horse that knew the way, on a fine morning when you felt like riding. The other [Alexander's Bridge] was like riding in a park, with someone not altogether congenial, to whom you had to be talking all the time." Actually, though, she might have called O Pioneers! her third first novel. She had earlier written a novel called "Fanny" and set in Pittsburgh that never made it into print.
9. Cather's most widely-read and widely-admired novel, My Ántonia, was nominated for the first-ever Pulitzer Prize but didn't get it. The one for which she later won a Pulitzer Prize, One of Ours, was thought by many to be a weaker work. Although it follows its hero, Claude Wheeler, to the battlefields of World War I, she insisted it should not be understood as a war novel and had to be talked out of titling it simply Claude.
10. Although Cather often drew on her own life in writing her novels, she always--or almost always--disguised her autobiographical presence. She didn't want to write about herself in a direct or obvious way. Yet her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, ends with a memory of hers from her own childhood told in the first person. The memory draws so directly from her own life, in fact, that she told her brother Roscoe, "Without that literal account of something that happened to me when I was between five and six years old, the whole book would be constructed, not lived."
Born in Back Creek, Virginia on December 7, 1873, Willa Cather moved with her family to Catherton, Nebraska in 1883. The following year the family relocated to nearby Red Cloud, the same town that has been made famous by her writing. The nine-year-old had trouble adjusting to her new life on the prairie: the all-encompassing land surrounded her, making her feel an "erasure of personality." After a year, Cather had developed a fierce passion for the land, something that would remain at the core of her writing. By 1890, immigrants in Nebraska made up forty-three percent of the state population. Cather found herself surrounded by foreign languages and customs. Drawn together in their homesickness, Cather felt a certain kinship to the immigrant women of the Plains.  It was to this land and these people that her mind returned when she began writing novels.
Cather attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating in 1895. While a student, she became a theater critic and columnist for the Nebraska State Journal and the Lincoln Courier. Her experience in journalism and criticism took her first to Pittsburgh and then to New York, where she served as managing editor for McClure's Magazine. During her tenure, she met Sarah Orne Jewett who encouraged the writer to develop her own voice with her own materials.  In 1913, Cather delivered, publishing O Pioneers!, a novel which celebrates the pioneering spirit of Swedish farmers on the plains of Nebraska. She followed this with The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918), both novels epic treatments of heroic immigrant women. 
Cather had a long writing career, over which she became nationally acclaimed and internationally respected. She is most remembered for My Ántonia, A Lost Lady (1923) and Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927).  My Ántonia and A Lost Lady are structured around central female characters, Ántonia, a Bohemian immigrant, and Marian Forrester, wife of a prestigious townsman. In the end, these women become emblematic of the past — Ántonia represents the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of childhood which the narrator wants to recapture.  Likewise, Mrs. Forrester signals the end of the past: her husband, aging and helpless, recalls the age of the railroad pioneers, the men of big business dreams, now defunct. Marian, however, changes to accommodate the new order, thereby surviving.  Cather evoked not only the Nebraska plains but also the history and topography of the southwest. In Death Comes for the Archbishop, she recounted the story of French Catholic missionaries settling New Mexico and Colorado. This novel was an instant critical success, earning the reputation of an "American classic." 
Cather received the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours.  She was given honorary degrees from Yale, Princeton and Berkeley, and was awarded the Prix Femina Américain by the French for her depiction of French culture within North America. Her writing earned her the cover of Time Magazine as well as the gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  Cather wrote, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."  Her ability to tap into these fundamental human stories keeps readers passionately engaged with her fiction.
Works Cited 1. James Woodress, Willa Cather: A Literary Life (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1987) ch. 1-3, specifically, pp. 21-38. For immigration statistics, see Robert W. Cherny, "Willa Cather's Nebraska," Approaches to Teaching Cather's My Ántonia, ed. Susan J. Rosowski (New York: Modern Language Association, 1989) 31-36. See also Hermione Lee, Willa Cather: Double Lives (New York: Vintage, 1989) 24-38 2. Woodress, Willa ch. 4-6 and 9. In particular, see pp. 103, 112, 199, 201-205. See also Mildred R. Bennett, The World of Willa Cather (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1989 ) 180-95. 3. Woodress, Willa ch. 11-13, particularly pp. 233, 253, 289. For the Modern Langauge Association scholarly editions of her work, see Susan J. Rosowski and Charles Mignon, eds., O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992). See also Charles Mignon, ed., My Ántonia by Willa Cather (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1994). 4. Woodress, Willa 293, 351, 391. 5. Woodress, Willa 293-301. See also James Woodress, "Historical Essay," My Ántonia, ed. Mignon 361-93. 6. Woodress, Willa 348. For the MLA scholarly edition, see Charles Mignon, Frederick Link, and Kari Ronning, eds., A Lost Lady by Willa Cather (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1997). 7. Woodress, Willa 409-10. See also the forthcoming John Murphy, ed., Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1999). 8. Woodress, Willa 334. 9. For Cather's honors, see Woodress, Willa 420, 423-424, 498. See also Bennett 202-203. 10. Willa Cather, O Pioneers!, ed. Susan J. Rosowski and Charles Mignon (Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992). _________________________________________________ Addendum: 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. (c) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willa_Cather#Final_years
- Biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willa_Cather
- Willa Cather Center: https://www.willacather.org/
- Biography (University of Nebraska): https://cather.unl.edu/life/longbio
- Willa Cather Archive (UNL): https://cather.unl.edu/
- Overview (PBS): https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/willa-cather-about-willa-cather/549/
- Overview (The Paris Review): https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/02/27/willa-cather-pioneer/
- Essay (Lionel Trilling, The New Republic): https://newrepublic.com/article/76896/willa-cather
- Alexander’s Bridge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander%27s_Bridge
- O Pioneers!: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Pioneers!
- The Song of the Lark: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_the_Lark
- My Antonia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_%C3%81ntonia
- One of Ours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_of_Ours
- A Lost Lady: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Lost_Lady
- The Professor’s House: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Professor%27s_House
- Professor’s House article (UNL): https://cather.unl.edu/scholarship/catherstudies/4/cs004.karush
- My Mortal Enemy article (UNL): https://cather.unl.edu/scholarship/catherstudies/5/cs005.johanningsmeier
- Death Comes for the Archbishop: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Comes_for_the_Archbishop
- Shadows on the Rock: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadows_on_the_Rock
- Lucy Gayheart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Gayheart
- Sapphira and the Slave Girl article (UNL): https://cather.unl.edu/scholarship/catherstudies/3/cs003.time
- VIDEO: The Letters of Willa Cather (Nebraska Public Media): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEN4bo2gbLk
- VIDEO: Short Memoir (Nebraska Public Media): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzjTfaqgMD4