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#2275: Willa Cather to Meta Schaper Cather, November 24, 1945

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My dear Meta1:

I was so glad to get the little-boy diary4 which you thoughtfully sent me. Every word of it means something to me. Don't I remember that boat and the struggle the two boys5 had to make it! – with no carpenter and very few pennies. At that time our family simply had no money at all. I was still going to the university because old Dr. Henry Cook6 sent me thirty dollars a month, and I made up the rest of each month's expenses by writing for the State Journal7 at one dollar a column – they were very long columns! But I never really minded the work on the Journal, though the time it took brought down my classroom grades. Every word of this little diary brings a hundred things to my memory.

I am glad, my dear, that you are getting acquainted with the Catholic Sisters at last! Really, for the most part, I think they are almost the most human women in the world – many of them so intelligent. Long ago, when I was teaching in Pittsburgh8, the old mother convent at Tours, France9, was dispersed by the radical government. The sister there who taught voice came to America10 to live with visit her sister, Madame Leeds11, in Pittsburgh. I never met a more charming and accomplished woman – brilliant socially. And what a gorgeous voice! She went out everywhere, and was an asset to any social gathering – spoke beautiful English. Had she been a small person, she might have been spoiled by the attentions showered upon her. I got a trial position on McClure's12 and came to New York2. I stayed here and in a few months resigned my position in Pittsburgh. Long afterward, at least twenty years afterward, I made inquiries at the Ursuline Convent in Quebec13 (I had heard from Madame Leeds that she her sister had been called there.) I had forgotten her name in religion, but I had only to say that she came from Tours and had a beautiful voice. The Mother Superior told me that she had taken charge of all their music for some years and then had been called to Italy14, to train one of the great choirs in Milan15.

I never saw her in her religious garb. I can only visualize her in memory as I really saw her – a very handsome woman in a drawing room surrounded by men and women of "Oold Pittsburgh" families. She was witty and tactful and with all so kindly that, beside her, the well-meaning Pittsburgh dames seemed raw and awkward. She certainly was the "woman of the world," and they were the provincials. But she had taken her vows at nineteen and had been "immured" in the Mother House at Tours ever since. She was about thirty when the nuns were dispersed.

I could wear you out quoting similar examples. Of course, not all nuns have great charm and great gifts, as she had. But when a woman has these valuable assets, believe me, the Catholics do not smother them, but are clever enough to develop them and use them where they will be most effective for the Glory of God and The Church.

Lovingly, Willie
Mrs. R. C. Cather1 Colusa3 California NEW YORK, N.Y. STA. Y2 NOV 24 1945 1230PM