Willa Cather, 1873-1947
"Restlessness such as ours, success such as ours, striving such as ours,
do not make for beauty. Other things must come first, good cookery, cottages
that are home, not playthings; gardens, repose."
—Willa Cather, 21 December 1924
FebruaryWillow Shade sold.
FallAttends the New Virginia country school.
The Charles Cather family moves to the county seat, Red Cloud
some time during this year.
During these years Willa
receives her early education,
attending grammar school and high school, although at first she was taught
at home. Two more children, James
(b. 1886) and Elsie
(b. 1890) are born.
Other members of the household are Mrs. Rachel Boak
, a cousin Bess Seymour
and Margie Anderson, the "hired girl."
September, 1890Goes to Lincoln, Nebraska, and enrolls in the Latin School
Essay on Carlyle
appears in the Nebraska
, submitted by her teacher, Ebenezer Hunt, without her
," appears in The Mahogany
, submitted by Professor Herbert Bates. "Peter" is Willa's first
JunePoem, "Shakespeare: A Freshman Theme," appears in the student
newspaper, The Hesperian. This is Willa's first
Becomes a regular contributor to the
Nebraska State Journal
; she begins to review plays and write a
Sunday column. She is also managing editor of The
and contributes numerous pieces.
Continues as a regular contributor to the Nebraska State Journal and also contributes to University
February, 1895Meets author Stephen Crane (Red Badge of
Fall, 1895Associates briefly with the Lincoln Courier.
January-MayMostly living at home in Red Cloud. Tries and fails to get a
teaching appointment at the University of Nebraska. Has stories published in
Overland Monthly and Nebraska
Leaves Red Cloud for Pittsburgh
, where she is to edit a family
magazine, the Home Monthly
. By July 13, she is
settled in a Pittsburgh boarding house
, and is at work on the August issue
of the magazine. In a letter of that date to Mrs. Charles Gere
mentions that she is using a half-dozen pen names.
October-NovemberContributes drama criticisms to the Pittsburgh Leader. A review on November 24 is signed
January-JuneWorking on the Home Monthly.
Contributes column ("The Passing Show") to the Nebraska
State Journal up through May 30. In June, Willa returns to Red
Writes her friend George Seibel
, in Pittsburgh, that the Home Monthly
is sold, but she is planning to come
back anyway and hopes to get into newspaper work.
SeptemberOffered a job on the Pittsburgh Leader;
is back in Pittsburgh early in September.
FallWorking on telegraph desk and writing play and book reviews.
Begins sending "The Passing Show" to the Lincoln Courier. Continues to write her "Helen Delay" book column for the Home Monthly.
FebruarySpends a week in New York, has lunch with Modjeska; may have
contributed a review or reviews to the New York
MayVisits her cousin, Howard Gore, in Washington D.C.
July-AugustVacationing in Red Cloud; makes a trip to the Black Hills and
Mostly in Pittsburgh working on the Leader
; spends some time in Columbus, Ohio, with her friends the
, first recuperating from an illness, then for Thanksgiving.
Except for an interval in Red Cloud during the summer, remains
in Pittsburgh, working on the Leader
. Continues to
contribute to Courier
. Last contribution
to Home Monthly
in December. Meets Isabelle McClung
during this year.
During the late spring (?) of this year, Willa Cather resigned
from the Pittsburgh Leader. Her poems appear in
March-AugustContributes to The Library, a
short-lived Pittsburgh periodical.
MayLast "Passing Show" appears in the Courier, May 12.
FallMoves to Washington, D.C. Secures a part-time job editing
November-DecemberArticle about Nevin appears in the Ladies'
Home Journal. Writes a Washington column which appears in the Nebraska State Journal and Index of
Pittsburgh Life until March, 1901.
," appears in the Saturday
. Returns to Pittsburgh where Willa begins to teach
Latin and English at Central High School. During the spring she begins to
live at the McClung residence.
Story, "El Dorado
," appears in New England
July-AugustVisits Red Cloud — first time home in two
SeptemberResumes teaching at Central High School.
AprilLast contribution to the Lincoln Courier.
SummerVacations in Nebraska.
Teaches at Allegheny High School and freelances. Publishes a
collection of short stories,
The Troll Garden
May, 1905. Visits Edith Lewis
in New York both years.
Working on McClure's. Spends much of
the year in Boston working on the life of Mary Baker Eddy. Three stories
appear in McClure's, one in Century.
MarchMeets Sarah Orne Jewett and Mrs. Fields.
Promoted to managing editor of McClure's
. Goes abroad with Isabelle McClung
; probably returns in
MayTravels to London for McClure's.
JuneReturns from London and continues editorial work at McClure's.
. S. S.
McClure dismissed from McClure's
magazine by new
On leave of absence from McClure's
Rents house in Cherry Valley, New York, with Isabelle McClung. Works on "The
" and "Alexandra" — the latter eventually becomes
is serialized in McClure's
under the title Alexander's Masquerade
form with Houghton Mifflin Company. The book costs $1.00. "Behind the Singer
Tower" appears in Collier's
. Visits brother Douglass
in Winslow, Arizona. Apparently still on leave of absence from McClure's
; resigns some time during the year.
June-JulyVisits Red Cloud
"The Bohemian Girl"
appears in McClure's
. Visits Isabelle McClung
in Pittsburgh. At work on "The
White Mulberry Tree" —an episode of O
, which is published in June, 1913.
FallMoves into 5 Bank Street, New York, with Edith Lewis; this
will be her home for the next fifteen years. Began working with on his autobiography.
Mifflin Company. The book costs $1.25 and has a first printing of 2,000
by S. S. McClure
serialized in McClure's
SummerWrites articles for McClure's.
Visits Mesa Verde for first time with Edith Lewis.
Conversations with Richard's Wetherill
's brother (Wetherill co-discovered
the Cliff Palace
in 1888) inspires "Tom Outland's Story" in The Professor's House
. The month Willa and Edith
spent in New Mexico
provides the material that eventually goes into Death Comes for the Archbishop
twelve years later.
The Song of the Lark
Houghton Mifflin Company. The book costs $1.40 and has a first printing of
Travels to New Mexico with Edith Lewis for a longer stay.
Visits brother Roscoe
in Lander, Wyoming. Also visits Red Cloud and is
inspired to write a new novel.
Receives honorary degree from the University of Nebraska.
Visits Roscoe's family
Houghton Mifflin. The book costs $1.60 and has a first printing of 3,500
copies. A contract was signed on January 24, 1918, with the same royalty
terms as The Song of the Lark
: 15% to 25,000 copies
and 20% thereafter.
SpringIntroduces herself to Alfred A. Knopf and they begin a 27 year
NovemberReturns to the United States from Naples.
Lives with Isabelle and Jan Hambourg
in Toronto. Sinclair
Lewis lectures in Toronto and says nice things about her work; Willa is
pleased. Reads copies of the Red Cloud newspaper and learns about the death
of Lyra Anderson, wife of former Governor Garber and once Red Cloud's great
lady. The story of A Lost Lady
comes to life in
Willa's mind. Visits Red Cloud in July, her first visit home in three years.
One of Ours
Visits Grand Manan Island
, New Brunswick, at the mouth of the
Bay of Fundy. Possibly writes "Tom Outland's Story." Also writes part of A Lost Lady
WinterHas tonsils removed, hemorrhages and is very ill. Recuperates
in sanatorium in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. Returns to New York and has
fresh anxiety over her mother's illness.
One of Ours
Limited issue publication, 345 copies at $10.00; trade issue printing of
12,000 copies at $2.50.
Returns to Red Cloud for Thanksgiving and helps celebrate her
parents 50th wedding anniversary. She and her parents join the Episcopal
in which Willa would be an active member for the rest of her
A Lost Lady in Century.
SeptemberPublishes A Lost Lady in book form with
Knopf. The book costs $1.75 and has a first printing of 20,000 copies.
Warner Brothers acquires screen rights to the novel for $10,000; Irene Rich
and George Fawcett played the leading roles in the 1925 production.
NovemberReturns to New York and begins writing The
SpringMeets Frieda and D. H. Lawrence in New York.
WinterFinishes writing The Professor's
Serializes The Professor's House
. Visits Red Cloud
and the Southwest. In
, discovers a book printed in 1908 by a priest named William
Howlett: The Life of the Right Reverend Joseph P.
. Rev. Machebeuf was the vicar to Archbishop Lamy of
. Machebeuf and Lamy are Joseph Vaillant and Jean Marie Latour
in Death Comes for the Archbishop
which Willa begins
writing in the fall of 1925 and finishes in the fall of 1926. Gives lectures
at Bowdoin College, the University of Chicago, and in Cleveland.
SeptemberPublishes The Professor's House in book
form with Knopf. The book costs $2.00 and has a first printing of 20,000
OctoberPublishes My Mortal Enemy with Knopf.
The book costs $2.50 and has a first printing of 10,000 copies.
January-JuneSerializes Death Comes for the
Archbishop in Forum.
SeptemberPublishes Death Comes for the
Archbishop in book form with Knopf. The book costs $2.50 and has a
first printing of 25,000 copies. The second and third printings were bound
and distributed before the initial September 2 publication date. Moves from
5 Bank Street to the Grosvenor Hotel at 35 Fifth Avenue in New York when the
house is to be torn down to make room for a new subway. Willa and Edith
Lewis live at the Grosvenor for five years.
dies of a heart attack on March 3. Willa
arrives in Red Cloud the day after her father died, about three o'clock in
the morning.Willa stays in Red Cloud for a month after the funeral. Her
brother Douglass takes their mother to Southern California.
Receives honorary degree from Columbia University. Visits
Quebec for first time while traveling to her cottage in Grand Manan
visit to Quebec is the genesis for Shadows on the
Spends Thanksgiving in Quebec. Begins working on Shadows on
the Rock in December. Willa Cather returned to Quebec three more times
before finishing the novel. Jennie Cather
, Willa's mother, has a stroke
while in California.
SpringSpends time in Long Beach, California, with her mother.
JuneReceives honorary degree from Yale.
MarchVisits her mother in a sanitarium in Pasadena.
May-OctoberVisits France. Writes "A Chance Meeting" after meeting Gustave
Flaubert's niece at the Grand Hotel d'Aix in Aix-les-Bains.
FallFinishes writing Shadows on the Rock.
Receives the gold medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Death Comes for the Archbishop.
JuneLeaves California and returns East. Receives honorary degree
AugustJennie Cather dies while Willa is at Grand Manan Island.
Publishes Shadows on the Rock with Knopf. The book
costs $2.50 and has a first printing of 25,000 copies.
DecemberCather family reunion in Red Cloud.
AugustPublishes a collection of short stories in Obscure Destinies.
DecemberMoves from the Grosvenor Hotel to 570 Park Avenue. Begins
writing Lucy Gayheart.
Receives the Prix Femina
Américain for Shadows on the Rock.
Receives honorary degree from Smith College.
Visits Isabelle Hambourg, who came to the United States in
March to consult American doctors for a malady that proves to be
AugustPublishes Lucy Gayheart with Knopf. The
book costs $2.50 and has a first printing of 25,000 copies.
NovemberPublishes Not Under Forty, a collection
of essays, with Knopf.
FallBegins writing Sapphira and the Slave
dies of a heart attack. Willa is devastated
and does not attend the funeral.
OctoberIsabelle Hambourg dies in Sorrento.
World War II breaks out when France falls to Hitler's armies.
Willa writes in her diary, "There seems to be no future at all for people of
SeptemberFinishes writing Sapphira and the Slave Girl
while at Grand Manan Island. The novel takes place in 1856 in the
Shenandoah Valley of Willa's early childhood.
DecemberPublishes Sapphira and the Slave Girl
with Knopf. The book costs $2.50 and has a first printing of 50,000
Receives gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and
Letters. S. S. McClure is also honored for his services to journalism and
dies. Willa and Roscoe always kept in close
contact. His death severs the last close link she had to her past.
dies at the age of 73 of a massive cerebral
hemorrhage. She is buried four days later at Jaffrey, New Hampshire, on the
hillside spot that she had selected. The inscription on her tombstone
December 7, 1876 - April 24, 1947
TRUTH AND CHARITY OF HER GREAT
SPIRIT WILL LIVE ON IN THE
WHICH IS HER ENDURING GIFT TO HER
COUNTRY AND ALL ITS
". . . that is happiness; to be dissolved
something complete and great."
SeptemberA collection of short stories, The Old
Beauty and Others, is published posthumously by Knopf. The
collection costs $2.50 and has a first printing of 20,300 copies.
- Cather, Willa. Collected Short Fiction 1892-1912.
ed. Virginia Faulkner. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1970.
- Crane, Joan. Willa Cather: A Bibliography. Lincoln:
U of Nebraska P, 1982.
- Woodress, James. Willa Cather: Her Life and Art.
Lincoln, U of Nebraska P, 1970.
- ---. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: U of
Nebraska P, 1987.