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The Willa Cather Foundation, Red Cloud

#13 of 25 in Historic Sites in Nebraska
Must see · Historic Site · Tourist Spot
Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873, although her parents did not register the date, and it is probably incorrectly given on her tombstone. Because she is so famous for her Nebraska novels, many people assume she was born there, but Willa Cather was about nine years old when her family moved to a small Nebraska frontier town called Red Cloud that was populated by immigrant Swedes, Bohemians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, and Russians. The oldest of seven children, she was educated at home, studied with a Latin neighbor, and read the English classics in the evening. By the time she went to the University of Nebraska in 1891–where she began by wearing boy’s clothes and cut her hair close to her head–she had decided to be a writer.

After graduation she worked for a Lincoln, Nebraska, newspaper, then moved to Pittsburgh and finally to New York City. There she joined McClure’s magazine, a popular muckraking periodical that encouraged the writing of new young authors. After meeting the author Sarah Orne Jewett, she decided to quit journalism and devote herself full time to fiction. Her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, appeared in serial form in McClure’s in 1912. But her place in American literature was established with her first Nebraska novel, O Pioneers!, published in 1913, which was followed by her most famous pioneer novel, My Antonia, in 1918. In 1922 she won the Pulitzer Prize for one of her lesser-known books. One of Ours. Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), her masterpiece, and Shadows on the Rock (1931) also celebrated the pioneer spirit, but in the Southwest and French Canada. Her other novels include The Song of the Lark (1915), The Professor’s House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), and Lucy Gayheart (1935). Willa Cather died in 1947.
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The Willa Cather Foundation reviews

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51 reviews
  • We detoured on our drive from Lincoln to Denver to see the town where author Willa Cather lived from age 11 to 16. I’m glad we did. It is a driving tour with a docent where you visit sites...  more »
  • The Willa Cather Foundation offers several options for tours. We selected the 90-minute options over the shorter options and we are glad that we did. Our guide drove her car and we followed to...  more »
  • Bad signage. Staff too busy on phone to help. Very disappointing. Response to your mail. There was only one other person in the place and two staff on phone one on business and one on a cell phone . A sign to the restroom would be one of many examples.
  • I thought it was really worth the trip. Very nice people who are incredibly informative and do a great job. We took the tour and saw how well maintained the exhibits and buildings are.
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