Partner Edith Lewis, buried together
Gore, US-50, Virginia, Stati Uniti
Willow Shade, Winchester, Virginia 22601, Stati Uniti
413 N Webster St, Red Cloud, NE 68970, Stati Uniti
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1400 R St, Lincoln, NE 68588, Stati Uniti
1180 Murray Hill Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, USA
60 Washington Square S, New York, NY 10012, Stati Uniti
82 Washington Pl, New York, NY 10011, USA
5 Bank St, New York, NY 10014, Stati Uniti
Shattuck Inn Resort, 53 Dublin Rd, Jaffrey, NH 03452, Stati Uniti
120 Whistle Rd, Grand Manan, NB E5G 1B3, Canada
The Grosvenor Hotel, 35 5th Ave, New York, NY 10003, Stati Uniti
570 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065, Stati Uniti
MacDowell Colony, 100 High St, Peterborough, NH 03458
Old Burying Ground, 23 Knight Rd, Jaffrey, NH 03452, Stati Uniti
Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947) was an American writer who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I.
Cather grew up in Virginia and Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years, supporting herself as a magazine editor and high school English teacher. At the age of 33 she moved to New York City, her primary home for the rest of her life, though she also traveled widely and spent considerable time at her summer residence on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.
As a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, Cather sometimes used the masculine nickname "William" and wore masculine clothing. A photograph in the University of Nebraska archives depicts Cather dressed like a young man and with "her hair shingled, at a time when females wore their hair fashionably long.":38
Cather's sexual identity remains a point of contention among scholars. While many argue for Cather as a lesbian and interpret her work through a lens of queer theory, a highly vocal contingent of Cather scholars adamantly oppose such considerations. For example, scholar Janet Sharistanian has written, "Cather did not label herself a lesbian nor would she wish us to do so, and we do not know whether her relationships with women were sexual. In any case, it is anachronistic to assume that if Cather's historical context had been different, she would have chosen to write overtly about homoerotic love."
Throughout Cather's adult life, her most significant friendships were with women. These included her college friend Louise Pound; the Pittsburgh socialite Isabelle McClung, with whom Cather traveled to Europe and at whose Toronto home she stayed for prolonged visits; the opera singer Olive Fremstad; the pianist Yaltah Menuhin; and most notably, the editor Edith Lewis, with whom Cather lived the last 39 years of her life.
Cather's relationship with Lewis began in the early 1900s. The two women lived together in a series of apartments in New York City from 1908 until the writer's death in 1947. From 1913 to 1927, Cather and Lewis lived at No. 5 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. They moved when the apartment was scheduled for demolition during the construction of the Broadway – Seventh Avenue New York City Subway line (now the 1, 2, and 3 trains). Cather selected Lewis as the literary trustee for her estate.
Although she was born into a Baptist family, Cather began attending Episcopal services in 1906, and she joined the Episcopal Church in 1922.
Willow Shade, Winchester, VA
La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe, NM
Beginning in 1922, Cather spent summers on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, where she bought a cottage in Whale Cove, on the Bay of Fundy and where her penultimate short story, "Before Breakfast," is set. It was the only house she ever owned.:23 She valued the seclusion of the island, and did not mind that her cottage had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Anyone wishing to reach her could do so by telegraph or mail.:415 She stopped going to Grand Manan Island when Canada entered World War II (1939), since travel was more difficult, tourist amenities were scarcer, and a favourite island doctor had died. Cather was experiencing a long recuperation from gall bladder surgery.:496
A resolutely private person, Cather had destroyed many old drafts, personal papers, and letters. Her will restricted the ability of scholars to quote from the personal papers that remain. However, in April 2013, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather—a collection of 566 letters Cather wrote to friends, family, and literary acquaintances such as Thornton Wilder and F. Scott Fitzgerald—was published, two years after the death of Cather's nephew and second literary executor, Charles Cather. Willa Cather's correspondence revealed complexity of her character and inner world. The letters do not disclose any intimate details about Cather's personal life, but they do "make clear that [her] primary emotional attachments were to women."
Cather was buried in the Old Burying Ground, behind the Jaffrey Center Meeting House in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Her grave site, which she shares with Edith Lewis, is at the southwest corner of the graveyard. She had first visited Jaffrey in 1917 when she joined Isabelle McClung and her husband, violinist Jan Hambourg, staying at the Shattuck Inn, where she came late in life for the seclusion necessary for her writing.
BACK TO HOME PAGE