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
in the Nebraska State Journal
, submitted by her teacher,
Ebenezer Hunt, without her knowledge.
," appears in The Mahogany Tree
by Professor Herbert Bates. "Peter" is Willa's first published fiction.
JunePoem, "Shakespeare: A Freshman Theme," appears in the student
newspaper, The Hesperian. This is Willa's first published
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 Hesperian
and contributes numerous
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 Literary
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
, Willa mentions that she is using a half-dozen pen
October-NovemberContributes drama criticisms to the Pittsburgh
Leader. A review on November 24 is signed "Willa."
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 Cloud.
Writes her friend George Seibel
, in Pittsburgh, that the Home
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
FebruarySpends a week in New York, has lunch with Modjeska; may have
contributed a review or reviews to the New York Sun.
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 Canfields
, first recuperating from an illness, then for
Except for an interval in Red Cloud during the summer, remains in
Pittsburgh, working on the Leader
. Continues to contribute
. 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 national
March-AugustContributes to The Library, a short-lived
MayLast "Passing Show" appears in the Courier,
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 Evening
. 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
," appears in New England Magazine
July-AugustVisits Red Cloud — first time home in two years.
SeptemberResumes teaching at Central High School.
AprilLast contribution to the Lincoln Courier.
AprilPublishes a book of verse, .
SummerVacations in Nebraska.
Teaches at Allegheny High School and freelances. Publishes a
collection of short stories,
The Troll Garden
, in 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 July.
MayTravels to London for McClure's.
JuneReturns from London and continues editorial work at McClure's.
. S. S. McClure dismissed from McClure's
On leave of absence from McClure's
house in Cherry Valley, New York, with Isabelle McClung. Works on "The Bohemian Girl
" and "Alexandra"
— the latter eventually becomes part of
is serialized in McClure's
under the title Alexander's Masquerade
in book 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
; 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 Pioneers!
, which is published in
Moves into 5 Bank Street, New York, with Edith Lewis; this will be
her home for the next fifteen years. Began working with S. S. McClure
on his autobiography.
with Houghton Mifflin Company. The book costs $1.25 and has a first
printing of 2,000 copies.
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
provides the material that eventually goes into Death Comes for the Archbishop
twelve years later.
The Song of the Lark
with Houghton Mifflin Company. The book costs $1.40 and has a first
printing of 3,000 copies.
Travels to New Mexico with Edith Lewis for a longer stay. Visits
in Lander, Wyoming. Also visits Red Cloud and is inspired to
write a new novel.
Receives honorary degree from the University of Nebraska. Visits
with 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%
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
comes to life in Willa's mind. Visits Red Cloud in July, her
first visit home in three years. Finishes
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
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
with Knopf. 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 Church
in which Willa would be an active member for the rest
of her life.
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 Santa Fe
, 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 New Mexico
. 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
SeptemberPublishes The Professor's House in book form
with Knopf. The book costs $2.00 and has a first printing of 20,000 copies.
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
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
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
. Willa's visit to Quebec is the genesis for Shadows on the Rock
Spends part of November 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 from
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
Receives the Prix Femina Américain for
Shadows on the Rock. Receives honorary degree from Smith
Visits Isabelle Hambourg, who came to the United States in March to
consult American doctors for a malady that proves to be incurable.
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
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 my
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 copies.
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
reads: WILLA CATHER
December 7, 1876 - April 24, 1947
THE 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
complete and great."
From My Ántonia
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.