Willa Cather’s 150 years to be celebrated throughout 2023

By: - February 18, 2023 5:00 am
Willa Cather throughout her life

The legacy of Red Cloud-native Willa Cather will be honored throughout the year. (Collage courtesy of The National Willa Cather Center)

LINCOLN — Acclaimed Nebraska novelist Willa Cather, who would have marked her 150th birthday in 2023, will be celebrated throughout the year with a series of events.

The National Willa Cather Center will host events locally and nationally for Cather’s 150th birthday and also the 100th anniversaries of her Pulitzer Prize for “One of Ours” and the publishing of “A Lost Lady” and “April Twilights and Other Poems.”

Cather is celebrated, the center explains, for her discovery and use of a “distinctive American language” that included authentic immigrant experiences. Novels such as “O Pioneers!” and “My Antonia” (published in 1913 and 1918) marked the “wellspring” of Cather’s youth in Nebraska.

After winning her Pulitzer Prize, Cather continued to have a successful and prolific career.

‘One voice’ of Nebraska’s history

Ashley Olson, executive director of the Willa Cather Foundation, said it’s important to read and know about Cather, especially for Nebraskans, because her work elevated the state. 

Cather’s body of work is known nationally and internationally, Olson explained, and people identify Nebraska and Cather’s hometown of Red Cloud with the author.

“I think it’s important that as residents of the state we know our own history and culture, and Cather is one voice that can help us learn and study those topics,” Olson said.

Journey to Washington

One event this year will be the unveiling of a statue in Cather’s likeness in the National Statuary Hall collection of the U.S. Capitol. Cather will join Chief Standing Bear as Nebraska’s two honorees in Statuary Hall. Cather’s statue and replace that of J. Sterling Morton in the hall. Fewer than a dozen women are represented in the collection.

Littleton Alston of Omaha, who created the statue, will also be the first African American artist with work represented in the collection.

“As much as it is a celebration of Willa Cather and her incredible legacy, it’s a wonderful connection that a Nebraska artist has done incredible work to represent her in the collection,” Olson said, adding she is confident the statue will be unveiled this year.

Additional events

The Willa Cather Childhood Home
The Willa Cather Childhood Home in Red Cloud, a National Historic Landmark, is expected to reopen later in 2023. (Courtesy of The National Willa Cather Center)

A significant restoration of Cather’s childhood home in Red Cloud, where she lived between the ages of 10 and 16, is also underway.

According to the Cather center, this National Historic Landmark is notable for its preserved vernacular style and original wallpaper in Cather’s attic bedroom and will reopen to visitors in the latter half of 2023.

Additional events this year include:

A complete list of updated events is available here.

Book clubs and teachers nationwide can explore discussion questions and curriculum support resources or download the National Willa Cather Center app for virtual tours. 

The center is also available to help communities organize speakers or events.

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C., and has reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan.