Willa Cather (7 Dec 1873 – 24 Apr 1947)

Willa Cather was the Pulitzer Prize winning American writer whose novels of frontier life, such as O Pioneers! and My Antonia, provide a mirror of a bygone time on the Great Plains. Willa Cather’s family moved to Nebraska when she was about nine years old, where she was exposed to the immigrants and next generation farm settlers who worked the land and defined their times by it. Willa was an intelligent and independent young woman, who graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in English in 1894 – quite a feat for her times. She was known to adopt the nickname of “William” during her college days, shunned the company of her sisters, much preferring that of her brothers, and took as her writing idols such men as Dickens, Hawthorne and Emerson. Willa believed that women authors were too sentimental and ladylike; she was not to be accused of the same. While enjoying great fame up into the 1930s, the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had a negative impact on the appreciation of her prose as well. She was accused of harkening back to and eulogizing a more innocent time, while ignoring the real hardships of her contemporary countrymen. Not until the 1970s was there a re-emergence of favor toward her work. Willa Cather was an extremely private person. She never married or had children; there is no evidence of love affairs. She spent 39 years of her life in the company of her companion, the editor, Edith Lewis, whom she made her literary trustee. Before her death, Willa burned all her letters, diaries and personal papers. Willa Cather did it her way.

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