Willa Cather Statue for U.S. Capitol Entering Final Casting

Sept. 15, 2021, 3:30 p.m. ·

Reddish clay sculpture of Willa Cather is show against a black background. She's holding a walking stick and carrying papers to write on. A wagon wheel is stuck in the background. A western meadowlark and goldenrod are shown at her feet.
Littleton Alston's Willa Cather statue after the clay sculpture is finished. A western meadowlark, the state bird, and goldenrod, the state flower, are shown at her feet. (Photo courtesy of History Nebraska and The Willa Cather Center)

Listen To This Story

A statue of iconic Nebraska author Willa Cather is entering its final bronze casting phase this fall. Cather’s sculpture will be on display as part of the National Statuary Hall Collections at the United States Capitol in Washington D-C.

Ashley Olson is with the National Willa Cather Center in Cather’s hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska. She said along with Chief Standing Bear’s new statue at the Capitol, Cather’s statue is exciting for Nebraskans.

“Cather is someone who took regional stories, with universal themes and really elevated them to a national and international readership, while also elevating Nebraska,” she said.

Each of the 50 states gets two of their most important icons depicted at the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Cather’s bronze likeness replaces a statue of Julius Sterling Morton, while Chief Standing Bear’s figure will replace the image of William Jennings Bryan. Nebraska politicians Bryan and Morton were in Statuary Hall for about 80 years.

Olson said the statue represents an important moment for Nebraska.

“(Cather) portrayed in her fiction very strong women characters,” she said, “and she herself, of course, was a self-made woman who really didn’t conform to societal norms.”

Willa Cather and her family moved to Webster County, Nebraska when she was nine. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1895 and wrote 12 novels, including a Pulitzer Prize winning story in the early 20th century.

The clay sculpting phase is completed for Omaha artist Littleton Alston’s soon-to-be bronze of the Red Cloud, Nebraska writer.