Women’s History Month: Willa Cather

March is Women’s History Month. Check back each Friday to see who I’m blogging about this month. Rather than write about random women in history, I will be sharing about women in history who were influential writers.

I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know four incredible women authors!



Born the eldest of seven children in 1873 in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, Willa Cather was nine when her family moved to rural Webster County, Nebraska. The family then resettled in Red Cloud, where Willa lived until beginning her college studies at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1890.

After graduating in 1895, Willa found work as a journalist and teacher, living in Pittsburg, then New York City. Her first volume of poetry, April Twilights, was published by a vanity press in 1903. By 1912, she was able to leave editorial work and live as a full-time writer and poet. Cather wrote prolifically over the next several decades, penning O Pioneers in 1913. Her book One of Ours (1922) received the Pulitzer Price for fiction in 1923.

Hailed as one of the greatest American novelists o the 20th century, Willa had a gift for portraying characters in such a way as readers could understand them in relation to their personal and cultural environments. Often, she used Red Cloud for inspiration in her stories.  Willa wrote 12 novels, 6 collections of short fiction, 2 editions of her book of poetry, and numerous works of nonfiction, collected journalism, speeches, and letters.

On April 24, 1947, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away. She is buried in the Old Burying Ground in Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire. A quote from one of her books is engraved upon her headstone:  “that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.”

Willa lives on through her devoted readers and organizations who continue to honor her contributions to literature, like Women Writing the West who hold an annual WILLA Literary Awards competition.

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