Willa Cather

Air Date: 04/01/2018

Willa Sibert Cather was born in Virginia in 1873, the first of seven children. Her family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska when she was nine years old. She was a sharply intelligent and lively child. Cather changed her own name in the family Bible from Willela to Willa. She cut her hair short as a boy's to prove she could. She wrote and directed plays with her young friends, read everything she could get her hands on, and graduated at the top of her small town class, throwing herself into her studies at the University of Nebraska. By 1908, Cather had achieved great success as the managing editor at McClure's Magazine: a prestigious and widely read New York magazine. At the height of her career, however, Cather left McClure's to become an author. She was just under forty years old. She published her first novel not soon afterwards in 1912. Her next three books, O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My √Āntonia, were published over the span of about five years, and were all set in places similar to her rural Nebraska town. Her concise, powerful prose gives Nebraska a vivid and striking presence in novels about young farmers, immigrant women, and finding beauty in the world. A young F. Scott Fitzgerald even wrote Cather a fan letter in 1925, citing another Nebraska novel called A Lost Lady as part of his inspiration for The Great Gatsby. By the end of her life, Cather had published a total of twelve novels and won a Pulitzer Prize. Though she lived most of her adult life in New York, the impact of Nebraska on Cather's writing is undeniable.