Willa Cather

(December 7, 1873–April 24, 1947)
Frederick County
Writer

Born in Frederick County, Willa Sibert Cather (December 7, 1873–April 24, 1947) grew up at her family's home along Back Creek, near Winchester. When she was nine, her family moved to Nebraska, following her father's parents and brother, who had immigrated to the western frontier during the 1870s. While attending the University of Nebraska, where she planned to study medicine, Cather showed a marked talent for journalism and story writing. Her first job out of college was as editor of Home Monthly, a woman's magazine based in Pittsburgh. She also wrote short stories, some of which were published in 1905 as The Troll Garden, which led to an invitation to join the staff of the phenomenally successful McClure's Magazine. She served as its managing editor from 1906 until leaving late in 1911 to devote herself wholly to writing novels.

Her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge (1912), focused on a westerner who found success as a bridge builder in Boston. Cather found her characteristic themes—the spirit and courage of the frontier settlers—from observations during her youth in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Among her finest achievements are O Pioneers! (1913) and My Ántonia (1918), which were praised for their memorable heroines and depiction of the frontier. Cather's World War I novel, One of Ours (1922), was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. She returned to her family's Virginia roots for her final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940), which told the story of an enslaved woman's escape from the Shenandoah Valley before the Civil War. Although she suffered poor health in later years, Cather continued to write and in 1944 received the Gold Medal in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in recognition of her work.