Willa Cather (1873 – 1947)

 Willa Cather photo

Willa Cather (b.

December 7, 1873 in Virginia; d. April 24, 1947 in New York) is among the most eminent female American authors. She is known for her depictions of US prairie life in novels like Death Comes For the Archbishop.

Cather was born in Virginia�s Shenandoah Valley but her family relocated to Nebraska in 1883 and she spent the rest of her childhood in Red Cloud, Nebraska. She insisted on attending college, so her family borrowed money so she could enroll at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While there she became a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal.

After failing to obtain a position at UNL, she moved to Pennsylvania, where she taught high school and worked for Home Monthly and McClure's Magazine. The latter publication serialized her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, which was heavily influenced by Henry James. She met author Sarah Orne Jewett, who advised Cather to rely less on the influence of James and more on her native Nebraska.

For her novels she returned to the prarie for inspiration, and these works became popular and critical successes. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One Of Ours (1922). She was celebrated by critics like H.L. Mencken for writing about ordinary people in plainspoken language. When he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Sinclair Lewis said Cather should have won it instead. However, later critics attacked Cather, a political conservative, for ignoring the plight of those ordinary people and tended to favor more experimental authors.

In 1973, Willa Cather was honored by the United States Postal Service with her image on a postage stamp.

Books by Willa Cather