North Side: Willa Cather
Willa Cather BORN: 1873. DIED: 24 April 1947.(66) BURIED:
And Death Comes for Willa Cather, Famous Author
From Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 25 April 1947.
Dr. Willa Cather, 70 [sic], author and former Pittsburgher, died yesterday of a cerebral hemorrhage in the the Madison Ave. (New York) home where she lived for many years.
One of her best books was "Death Comes for the Archbishop," in 1927.
She was an artist in telling a story simply.
Dr. Cather was born in Winchester, Va., reared on a Nebraska ranch, but spent 11 years in Pittsburgh.
Here in 1895.
She came to Pittsburgh in 1895, upon graduation from the University of Nebraska, because she was fond of music and believed she could satisfy her desire for concerts and intellectual companionship in the "city of steel."
In Nebraska she was a newspaper correspondent.
Here, she was telegraph editor and drama critic for the old "Pittsburgh Leader."
She also taught a year at Old Central High School, where John O'Connor Jr., now assistant director of fine arts at Carnegie Institute, was one of her pupils. He still cherishes a yellowed composition paper of his on which she marked "Good."
She was well-liked by the pupils, he said, who found inspiration in the breezy, western way she had with people. She dressed plainly in tailored clothes, he said, and always wore her hair parted Madonna-like in the middle.
Following the year at Central, she transferred to Allegheny High School in 1901, where she became head of the English department.
Another Pittsburgher at whose home she spent a great deal of time is George Seibel, critic and present head of the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny.
She was delightful and intelligent company Seibel recalls. Twice a week she came to the Seibel home to read French authors with George and his wife. Seibel says:
"She did her work, did it well, and let it go at that. She avoided getting into the limelight."
Her first important writing, as he recalls it, was a short story published in "Cosmopolitan" magazine and a poem in the then popular "Youth's Companion." She also did a great deal of work for a local publication called "The Library."
While living in Pittsburgh, her residence most of the time was the home of Judge S. A. McClung, whose daughter, Isabel, was her close friend. Isabel married a musician, Jan Hambourg, and later moved to Paris.
Much of Miss Cather's musical knowledge and interest came about through this association.
One of her short stories, written in Pittsburgh, was called "Paul's Case," and was based on the actual suicide of a local high school youth. His parents objected, and when the story later came out in a book of short stories by Miss Cather it was entitled "Youth and the Bright Medusa."
Her first book was in verse, "April Twilights," 1903. In 1905 a book of short stores "clicked" and she became associate editor of "McClure's Magazine" in 1906.
She often referred to Pittsburgh as the "birthplace" of her writing career. Many of her poems and stories were based on activities that centered here at the turn of the century in Carnegie Music Hall, Schenley Park, Schenley Hotel and the fashionable residences of Fifth Ave. and Old Allegheny.
"Death Comes for the Archbishop" and "A Lost Lady," 1923, were considered her best books. The former was a simple, vivid story of two saints of the Southwest; the latter a feminine study with a prairie background.
"One of Ours," the story of a western boy in World War I, won the Pulitzer prize in 1922. In 1933 she was awarded Prix Femina Americaine "for distinguished literary accomplishments."
Her other books were The Troll Garden, 1905; Alexander's Bridge, 1912; O Pioneers, 1913; The Song of the Lark, 1915; My Antonia, 1918, a story of the currents of emotion in every Main St. in America; Youth and the Bright Medusa, 1920; The Professor's House, 1925; My Mortal Enemy, 1926; Shadows on the Rock, 1931; Obscure Destinies, 1932; Lucy Gayheart, 1935; Not Under Forty, 1936; Sapphira and the Slave Girl, 1940.
She held Doctor of Literature degrees from University of Nebraska, University of Michigan, University of California, Columbia, Princeton and Yale. She was unmarried.