March 2017 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Ellen Liddy Watson from Wikapedia 

Ellen Liddy Watson (July 2, 1860 – July 20, 1889) was a pioneer of Wyoming who became erroneously known as Cattle Kate, a post-claimed outlaw of the Old West. The "outlaw" characterization is a dubious one, as she was not violent and was never charged with any crime during her life. Accused of cattle rustling, she was ultimately lynched by agents of powerful cattle ranchers as an example of what happens to those who opposed them or who threatened their interests. Her life has become an Old West legend.

Early life

Ellen Liddy Watson was born about July 1860. It is likely that she was the daughter of Thomas Lewis Watson and Francis Close, who married the next year on May 15, 1861, in Grey County, Ontario. The eldest of ten surviving children, Watson helped at home and attended school, learning to read and write in a small one-room building. In 1877, the family moved to Lebanon, Kansas.

Soon after the move, Watson went to Smith Center, Kansas to work as a cook and housekeeper for H.R. Stone. While there, she met farm laborer William A. Pickell. They married on November 24, 1879. Their wedding portrait survives, depicting a "tall, square-faced woman", Watson was probably 5 foot 8 inches tall, and weighed about 165 pounds (75 kg). She had brown hair, blue eyes and a Scottish accent, inherited from her parents.

Pickell was verbally and physically abusive and drank heavily. He would often beat Ella with a horsewhip. In January 1883, Watson fled to back to her parents' home. Pickell came after her, but was intimidated by her father and fled, and had no contact with her afterwards. Watson moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, 12 miles (19 km) north of her family's homestead. She worked at the Royal Hotel for a year while establishing residency and then filed for divorce.

That same year she moved, against her family's wishes, to Denver, Colorado to join one of her brothers who lived there. She then moved on to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was unusual during that period in American history for a woman to move independently and alone, but she found work as a seamstress and a cook.

Watson disliked Cheyenne and in late 1885 or early 1886 followed the railroad to Rawlins, Wyoming where she began working as cook and waitress in the premier boarding-house in town, the Rawlins House.

 Life with Averell

On February 24, 1886, Watson met James "Jim" Averell, who was in Rawlins to file a homestead claim for land along the Sweetwater River, about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. There he opened a restaurant and general store catering to cowboys and to people traveling west. He quickly hired Watson to cook at his restaurant; customers paid 50 cents each for a meal.

In May, she and Averell applied for a marriage license 100 miles (160 km) away, in Lander, Wyoming. The license listed her as "Ellen Liddy Andrews". It is unclear whether the two were legally married, although historians think it likely that the marriage did take place, but was kept a secret. This allowed Watson to apply for land through the Homestead Act of 1862, which permitted single women, but not married women, to buy 160 acres of land, provided they improved it within five years. In August 1886 Watson filed squatter's rights to the land adjacent to Averell's. In May 1888, she filed her homestead claim to the same piece of land. To meet the requirements of the Homestead Act, Watson had a small cabin and corral constructed on her property.

To earn extra money, Watson mended clothing for cowboys. The fact that men frequently visited her cabin, "may have led to rumors" that she was actually a prostitute.

Confrontations with WSGA

With her savings, Watson bought cattle from emigrants on the trails. She fenced about 60 acres of her land with barbed wire, but this would not have been enough grazing area for her small herd. In this era, many ranchers grazed their cattle on public land. In 1872, about two dozen of the cattlemen with the largest ranches banded together to create the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) to protect their rights to the open range.[ After suffering massive losses in the Snow Winter of 1880–1881, when cattle were unable to get to the grass under the snowdrifts, ranchers began growing hay as an alternative way of feeding the animals during the winter. For an area with little rainfall, this meant that access to water was now crucial to the survival of the ranches. The land claimed by Watson and Averell controlled 1 mile (1.6 km) of water along Horse Creek. A neighbor, the powerful cattleman Albert John Bothwell, made several offers to buy Watson and Averell's land from them. They repeatedly declined.

The wealthy cattlemen began to build portable cabins on unclaimed land, declaring homesteads and registering them, thus acquiring the land and then moving the portable cabin to another location and repeating the process. Averell, being the local justice of the peace, began writing about these acts to a newspaper in Casper, Wyoming, and seemed to reference Bothwell directly.

A law at the time stated that unbranded calves became the property of the WSGA. The cattlemen's associations limited small ranchers from bidding at auctions, and insisted that all ranchers, small and large, have a registered brand. The cost for registering a brand was exorbitant, ensuring that few small ranchers could afford it. Also, a brand had to be "accepted", and the cattlemen's associations had substantial power inside the committee that either rejected or accepted brands, thus locking out smaller ranchers. Over a three-year period Watson and Averell filed applications for five different brands and were denied each time. In 1889 she bought a previously registered brand, "L-U", (an altered pronunciation of 'Ella') from John Crowder.

In a move that may have been retaliation for the repeated denial of her brand applications, Watson filed for approval to construct a water ditch to irrigate more of her land. This ditch, if built, would reduce the amount of water available to neighboring ranchers, including Bothwell.

With a brand of her own, Watson was now able to mark her own cattle. In July 1889, just as the spring roundup was ending, Watson branded her cattle. Forty-one cattle were branded, a relatively high number considering the year before she had purchased only 28, all specifically described as being in poor health. Although it is possible that some cattle had broken through her fence and were accidentally mixed in with her own, it is also likely that many of the calves were mavericks, which the WSGA considered their property.

Bothwell began to fence in parts of Ella's ranch and sent his cowboys to harass the couple. On July 20, 1889, a range detective, George Henderson, working for Bothwell, accused Ella of rustling cattle from Bothwell and branding them with her own brand. The cattlemen sent riders to arrest Ella. While young Gene Crowder watched, they forced her into a wagon, telling her they were going to Rawlins.

Crowder rode for help, told Buchanan, who immediately rode after the wagon. By the time Buchanan arrived, the riders were in the process of lynching both Ella and Jim. Buchanan rode in and opened fire. At least one of them was wounded, but Buchanan was forced to withdraw, as the odds were ten to one. Buchanan then rode back to the ranch, where he was met by Ralph Coe and the two boys. By that time, both Jim and Ella were dead.

Aftermath of killings

County Sheriff Frank Hadsell and Deputy Sheriff Phil Watson (no relation to Ella) arrested six men for lynching. Though a trial date was set, several witnesses were intimidated and threatened, and several others were mysteriously killed. One of those who disappeared was young Gene Crowder, who was never seen again. Buchanan fled after another shoot-out with unknown suspects. Though he was seen periodically over the next two or three years, he eventually changed his name and disappeared altogether. Ralph Cole, who was a nephew to Averell, died on the day of the trial from poisoning.

Another witness, Dan Fitger, had observed the lynchings, and had seen the riders arrive with Buchanan riding far behind. He also witnessed the shoot-out between Buchanan and the riders, stating that at least one of the vigilante riders was wounded, possibly two. However, he did not come forward until years later, for fear of the cattlemen. At the time of the trial, he stated he had been plowing in a field when the incident happened.

In the end, the Averells' possessions were sold off at auction, and their property eventually claimed by members of the cattlemen's association. This was one of many events that eventually sparked the Johnson County War.

Cattle Kate

The day that Watson and Averell were lynched, George Henderson received a telegram. He immediately went to the Cheyenne Daily Sun and then other papers controlled by the WGSA. The next day, those papers published lurid accounts of the crimes of prostitute and cattle rustler "Cattle Kate" Maxwell and her partner-in-crime, James Averell. Daily Sun editor Ed Towse's 1,300-word article justified the "lawless but justifiable deed" of lynching Averell and "Maxwell." He stated that "the cattlemen have been forced to this and more hangings will follow unless there is less thieving." The articles and those that followed marked the first time that the cattlemen had used the press as a tool to justify and glorify their violence. The tactic was so successful that it was resurrected during the violence of 1891 andb1892.


Those who knew her spoke highly of Watson. A stage station operator, Harry Ward, described Watson as "a fine looking woman", saying: "Other women looked down on her in those days, but no matter what she was or did she had a big heart. Nobody went hungry around her."

Watson is the only woman to have been hanged in Wyoming. Her death, and that of Averell, "became symbols of the societal contempt raging against rustlers during the latter part of the nineteenth century." The Cattle Kate myth was largely accepted until the late 20th century, when composer George Hufsmith began researching Watson's life for an opera, The Lynching of Sweetwater. He received a lot of information from her family and eventually used his research in writing a biography of Watson.

Watson's relatives erected a marker in 1989 at her grave site to commemorate her death.

The 1953 movie The Redhead from Wyoming was loosely based on the myth of Watson as Kate Maxwell. Maureen O'Hara played a madam who inadvertently helped Averell (William Bishop (actor)) run a cattle rustling empire. Another highly fictionalized version of the lives of Ella Watson and James Averell was produced in 1980. Heaven's Gate, directed by Michael Cimino and starring Kris Kristofferson and Isabelle Huppert, was "one of the most costly films ever made - and one of Hollywood's box office failures".

    In the 1950s syndicated television series, Stories of the Century, starring and narrated by Jim Davis, the actress Jean Parker appeared as 
    "Cattle Kate", and James Seay portrayed her companion, Jim Averell.
    In the 2002 fictionalized television movie The Johnson County War, Watson and Averell were referred to as "Queeny" and "Avery",
    Witness to a Lynching, a 1972 episode of Alias Smith and Jones, was based on the Averell-Watson hanging.

Watson's story appears in Red Light Women of the Rocky Mountain by Jan MacKell and includes an illustration of her made by Herndon Davis.

Helen Hunt Jackson from Wikapedia 
Helen Maria Hunt Jackson, born Helen Fiske (October 15, 1830 – August 12, 1885), was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government. She described the adverse effects of government actions in her history A Century of Dishonor (1881). Her novel Ramona (1884) dramatized the federal government's mistreatment of Native Americans in Southern California after the Mexican–American War and attracted considerable attention to her cause. Commercially popular, it was estimated to have been reprinted 300 times and most readers liked its romantic and picturesque qualities rather than its political content. The novel was so popular that it attracted many tourists to Southern California who wanted to see places from the book.

Early years

She was born Helen Maria Fiske in Amherst, Massachusetts, the daughter of Nathan Welby Fiske and Deborah Waterman Vinal Fisk. Helen's father was a minister, author, and professor of Latin, Greek, and philosophy at Amherst College. She had two brothers, both of whom died soon after birth, and a sister Anne. They were raised as Unitarian. Anne became the wife of E. C. Banfield, a federal government official who served as Solicitor of the United States Treasury.

Helen Hunt Jackson, c.

The girls lost their mother in 1844, when Helen was fifteen. Three years later their father died. He had provided financially for Helen's education and arranged for an uncle to care for her. Fiske attended Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute, a boarding school in New York City run by Reverend J.S.C. Abbott. She was a classmate of Emily Dickinson, also from Amherst; Emily became a renowned poet. The two corresponded for the rest of their lives, but few of their letters have survived.

Marriage and family

In 1852 at age 22, Fiske married U.S. Army Captain Edward Bissell Hunt. They had two sons, one of whom, Murray Hunt, died as an infant in 1854 of a brain disease. In 1863, her husband died in a military accident. Her second son Rennie Hunt died of diphtheria in 1865.

Hunt traveled widely. In the winter of 1873–1874 she was in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the resort of Seven Falls, seeking rest in hopes of a cure for tuberculosis, which was often fatal before the invention of antibiotics. (See Tuberculosis treatment in Colorado Springs).[6] While in Colorado Springs, Hunt met William Sharpless Jackson, a wealthy banker and railroad executive. They married in 1875 and she took the name Jackson, under which she was best known for her later writings.

Early writing career

Helen Hunt began writing after the deaths of her family members. She published her early work anonymously, usually under the name "H.H." Ralph Waldo Emerson admired her poetry and used several of her poems in his public readings. He included five of them in his Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry (1880).

Over the next two years, she published three novels in the anonymous No Name Series, including Mercy Philbrick's Choice and Hetty's Strange History. She also encouraged a contribution from Emily Dickinson to A Masque of Poets as part of the same series.

Activist for Native Americans

In 1879 Jackson's interests turned to Native Americans after hearing a lecture in Boston by Chief Standing Bear, of the Ponca Tribe. Standing Bear described the forcible removal of the Ponca from their Nebraska reservation and transfer to the Quapaw Reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma), where they suffered from disease, harsh climate, and poor supplies. Upset about the mistreatment of Native Americans by government agents, Jackson became an activist on their behalf. She started investigating and publicizing government misconduct, circulating petitions, raising a lot of money , and writing letters to the New York Times on behalf of the Ponca.

A fiery and prolific writer, Jackson engaged in heated exchanges with federal officials over the injustices committed against the Ponca and other American Indian tribes. Among her special targets was U.S. Secretary of Interior Carl Schurz, whom she once called "the most adroit liar I ever knew." She exposed the government's violation of treaties with American Indian tribes. She documented the corruption of US Indian agents, military officers, and settlers who encroached on and stole reserved Indian lands.

Jackson won the support of several newspaper editors who published her reports. Among her correspondents were editor William Hayes Ward of the New York Independent, Richard Watson Gilder of the Century Magazine, and publisher Whitelaw Reid of the New York Daily Tribune.

A Century of Dishonor

Jackson wrote a book, the first published under her own name, in which she condemned state and federal Indian policies. She recounted history of broken treaties. A Century of Dishonor (1881) called for significant reform in government policy toward Native Americans. Jackson sent a copy to every member of Congress with a quote from Benjamin Franklin printed in red on the cover: "Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations." The New York Times, however, suggested the following in Jackson's obituary:

    ...[She] soon made enemies at Washington by her often unmeasured attacks, and while on general lines she did some good, her case was
       weakened by her inability, in some cases, to substantiate the charges she had made; hence many who were at first sympathetic fell away.

Mission Indian crusade

 Jackson went to southern California for respite. Having been interested in the area's missions and the Mission Indians on an earlier visit, she began an in-depth study. While in Los Angeles, she met Don Antonio Coronel, former mayor of the city and a well-known authority on early Californio life in the area. He had served as inspector of missions for the Mexican government. Coronel told her about the plight of the Mission Indians after 1833. They were buffeted by the secularization policies of the Mexican government, as well as later U.S. policies, both of which led to their removal from mission lands. Under its original land grants, the Mexican government provided for resident Indians to continue to occupy such lands. After taking control of the territory in 1848, the U.S. generally disregarded such Mission Indian occupancy claims. In 1852, an estimated 15,000 Mission Indians lived in Southern California. By the time of Jackson's visit, they numbered fewer than 4,000.

Coronel's account inspired Jackson to action. The U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Hiram Price, recommended her appointment as an Interior Department agent. Jackson's assignment was to visit the Mission Indians, ascertain the location and condition of various bands, and determine what lands, if any, should be purchased for their use. With the help of the US Indian agent Abbot Kinney, Jackson traveled throughout Southern California and documented conditions. At one point, she hired a law firm to protect the rights of a family of Saboba Indians facing dispossession from their land at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains.

In 1883, Jackson completed her 56-page report. It recommended extensive government relief for the Mission Indians, including the purchase of new lands for reservations and the establishment of more Indian schools. A bill embodying her recommendations passed the U.S. Senate but died in the House of Representatives.

Jackson decided to write a novel to reach a wider audience. When she wrote Coronel asking for details about early California and any romantic incidents he could remember, she explained her purpose:

    I am going to write a novel, in which will be set forth some Indian experiences in a way to move people's hearts. People will read a novel when they will not read serious books. She was inspired by her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). "If I could write a story that would do for the Indian one-hundredth part what Uncle Tom's Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life," she wrote.

Later writing career

Although Jackson started an outline in California, she began writing the novel in December 1883 in her New York hotel room, and completed it in about three months. Originally titled In The Name of the Law, it was published as Ramona (1884), the name of the main character. It featured Ramona, an orphan girl who was half Indian and half Scots, raised in Spanish Californio society, her Indian husband Alessandro, and their struggles for land of their own. The characters were based on people known by Jackson and incidents which she had encountered. The book achieved rapid success among a broad swath of the public. Its romantic story contributed to the growth of tourism to Southern California, as people wanted to see places described in the novel.

After she married William Sharpless Jackson in Colorado Springs in 1875, she took his name and is known in her writing by Helen Hunt Jackson. One of her most popular poems is Cheyenne Mountain, about the mountain in Colorado Springs.

Encouraged by the popularity of her book, Jackson planned to write a children's story about Indian issues, but did not live to complete it. Her last letter was written to President Grover Cleveland and she said:

    "From my death bed I send you message of heartfelt thanks for what you have already done for the Indians. I ask you to read my Century of Dishonor. I am dying happier for the belief I have that it is your hand that is destined to strike the first steady blow toward lifting this burden of infamy from our country and righting the wrongs of the Indian race."

Death and burial

Jackson died of stomach cancer in 1885 in San Francisco, California. Her husband arranged for her burial on a one-acre plot near Seven Falls at Inspiration Point overlooking Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her remains were later moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. At the time of her death, her estate was valued at $12,642.

Critical response and legacy

Jackson's A Century of Dishonor remains in print, as does a collection of her poetry.

A New York Times reviewer said of Ramona that "by one estimate, the book has been reprinted 300 times." One year after Jackson's death the North American Review described Ramona as "unquestionably the best novel yet produced by an American woman" and named it, along with Uncle Tom's Cabin, as the two most ethical novels of the 19th century. Sixty years after its publication, 600,000 copies had been sold. There have been over 300 reissues to date and the book has never been out of print.

The novel has been adapted for other genres, including four films (the last in Spanish), stage, and television productions. Valery Sherer Mathes assessed the writer and her work:

    Ramona may not have been another Uncle Tom's Cabin, but it served, along with Jackson's writings on the Mission Indians of California, as a catalyst for other reformers ....Helen Hunt Jackson cared deeply for the Indians of California. She cared enough to undermine her health while devoting the last few years of her life to bettering their lives. Her enduring writings, therefore, provided a legacy to other reformers, who cherished her work enough to carry on her struggle and at least try to improve the lives of America's first inhabitants.

Her friend Emily Dickinson once described Jackson's literary limitations: "she has the facts but not the phosphorescence."

In a review of a film version, a journalist wrote about the novel, describing it as "the long and lugubrious romance by Helen Hunt Jackson, over which America wept unnumbered gallons in the eighties and nineties," and complained of "the long, uneventful stretches of the novel." In reviewing the history of her publisher, Houghton Mifflin, a 1970 reviewer noted that Jackson typified the house's success: "Middle aged, middle class, middlebrow."

Jackson wrote of her late works: "My Century of Dishonor and Ramona are the only things I have done of which I am glad.... They will live, and... bear fruit."

Legacy and honors

    The largest collection of the papers of Helen Hunt Jackson is held at Colorado College.
    The Helen Hunt Jackson Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library is a Mission/Spanish Revival style-building built in 1925. It is listed on the
    National Register of Historic Places.
    A portion of Jackson's Colorado home has been reconstructed in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and furnished with her possessions.
    Hemet California's official outdoor play, the annual Ramona Pageant, takes place at the Ramona Bowl outdoor amphitheatre each year in late
    A high school in Hemet, California, and an elementary school in Temecula were named after her.
    Ramona High School in Riverside, California is named for her central character.
    Helen Hunt Falls, located in North Cheyenne Cañon Park in Colorado Springs, was named in her memory

There is also an elementary school in Colorado Springs named in her memory


    Bits of Travel (1872)
    Bits about Home Matters (1873)
    Saxe Holm's Stories (1874)
    The Story of Boon (1874)
    Mercy Philbrick's Choice (1876)
    Hetty's Strange History(1877)
    Bits of Talk in Verse and Prose for Young Folks (1876)
    Bits of Travel at Home (1878)
    Nelly's Silver Mine: A Story of Colorado Life (1878)
    Letters from a Cat (1879)
    A Century of Dishonor (1881)
    Ramona (1884)
    Zeph: A Posthumous Story (1885)
    Glimpses of Three Coasts (1886)
    Between Whiles (1888)
    A Calendar of Sonnets (1891)
    Ryan Thomas (1892)
    The Hunter Cats of Connorloa (1894)
    Poems by Helen Jackson Roberts Bros, Boston 1893
    Pansy Billings and Popsy: Two Stories of Girl Life (1898)
    Glimpses of California 1914

Willa Sibert Cather from Wikapedia 
Willa Sibert Cather, (December 7, 1873– April 24, 1947) was an American writer who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I.

Cather grew up in Virginia and Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years, supporting herself as a magazine editor and high school English teacher. At the age of 33 she moved to New York City, her primary home for the rest of her life, though she also traveled widely and spent considerable time at her summer residence in New Brunswick, Canada.

Early life and education

Cather was born Wilella Sibert Cather in 1873 on her maternal grandmother's farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia. Her father was Charles Fectigue Cather (d. 1928), whose family had lived on land in the valley for six generations. Cather's family originated in Wales, the family name deriving from Cadair Idris, a mountain in Gwynedd. Her mother was Mary Virginia Boak (died 1931), a former school teacher. Within a year of Cather's birth, the family moved to Willow Shade, a Greek Revival-style home on 130 acres given to them by her paternal grandparents.

At the urging of Charles Cathers' parents, the family moved to Nebraska in 1883 when Willa was nine years old. The rich, flat farmland appealed to Charles' father, and the family wished to escape the tuberculosis outbreaks that were rampant in Virginia. Willa's father tried his hand at farming for eighteen months; then he moved the family into the town of Red Cloud, where he opened a real estate and insurance business, and the children attended school for the first time. Some of the earliest work produced by Cather was first published in the Red Cloud Chief, the city's local paper. Cather's time in the western state, still on the frontier, was a deeply formative experience for her. She was intensely moved by the dramatic environment and weather, the vastness of the Nebraska prairie, and the various cultures of the European-American, immigrant and Native American families in the area. Like Jim Burden in My Antonia the young Willa Cather saw the Nebraska frontier as a "place where there was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the materials out of which countries were made...Between that earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out".

Mary Cather had six more children after Willa: Roscoe, Douglass, Jessica, James, John, and Elsie. Cather was closer to her brothers than to her sisters whom, according to biographer Hermione Lee, she "seems not to have liked very much."  Cather read widely, having made friends with a Jewish couple, the Weiners, who offered her free access to their extensive library. She made house calls with the local physician, Dr. Robert Damerell, and decided to become a doctor.

After Cather's essay on Thomas Carlyle was published in the Nebraska State Journal during her freshman year at the University of Nebraska, she became a regular contributor to the Journal. In addition to her work with the local paper, Cather also served as the managing editor of The Hesperian, the University of Nebraska's student newspaper, and associated at the Lincoln Courier. She changed her plans to major in science and become a physician, instead graduating with a B.A. in English in 1894.


In 1896, Cather moved to Pittsburgh after being hired to write for the Home Monthly, a women's magazine patterned after the successful Ladies' Home Journal. A year later, she became a telegraph editor and drama critic for the Pittsburgh Leader and frequently contributed poetry and short fiction to The Library, another local publication. In Pittsburgh, she taught Latin, algebra, and English composition at Central High School for one year; she then taught English and Latin at Allegheny High School, where she became the head of the English department.

During her first year in Pittsburgh, Cather also wrote a number of short stories, including "Tommy, the Unsentimental," about a Nebraskan girl with a boy's name, who looks like a boy and saves her father's bank business. Janis P. Stout calls this story one of several Cather works that "demonstrate the speciousness of rigid gender roles and give favorable treatment to characters who undermine conventions."

Cather's first collection of short stories, The Troll Garden, was published in 1905 by McClure, Phillips, and Company. It contains several of Cather's best-known stories—"A Wagner Matinee," "The Sculptor's Funeral," and "Paul's Case."

In 1906 Cather moved to New York City after being offered a position on the editorial staff of McClure's Magazine, a periodical connected with the publisher of The Troll Garden the year before. During her first year at McClure's she wrote a critical biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. While Georgina Milmine's name appears as a co-author, both in the serial and the book publications, Cather was the principal writer of the biography. Milmine performed copious amounts of research, but she did not have the resources to produce a publishable manuscript on her own. "Mary Baker G. Eddy: The Story of Her Life and the History of Christian Science" was published in 

"The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it
through my fingers...I kept as still as I could. Nothing
happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was
something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the
pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was
entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and
become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air,
or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is
happiness; to be dissolved into something complete andgreat. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

— Willa Cather, My Antonia

McClure's in fourteen installments over the next eighteen months, and then in book form as The Life of  Mary Baker G. Eddy and the History of Christian Science (1909).

McClure's serialized Cather's first novel, Alexander's Bridge (1912). Most reviews were favorable. The New York Times praised "the dramatic situations and the clever conversations," and The Atlantic called the writing "deft and skillful."

Cather followed Alexander's Bridge with her Prairie Trilogy: O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918). These works became both popular and critical successes. Cather was celebrated by national critics such as H. L. Mencken for writing in plainspoken language about ordinary people. Sinclair Lewis praised her work for making "the outside world know Nebraska as no one else has done."

Through the 1910s and 1920s, Cather was firmly established as a major American writer, receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her novel One of Ours. By the 1930s, however, critics began to dismiss her as a "romantic, nostalgic writer who could not cope with the present." Critics such as Granville Hicks charged Cather with failing to confront "contemporary life as it is" and escaping into an idealized past. During the hardships of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, her work was seen as lacking social relevance.

Cather's conservative politics and the same subject matter that appealed to Mencken, Randolph Bourne, and Carl Van Doren soured her reputation with younger, often left-leaning critics such as Hicks and Edmund Wilson. Discouraged by the negative criticism of her work, Cather became defensive. She destroyed some of her correspondence and included a provision in her will that forbade the publication of her letters.

Despite this critical opposition to her work, Cather remained a popular writer whose novels and short story collections continued to sell well. In 1931 Shadows on the Rock was the most widely read novel in the US, and Lucy Gayheart became a bestseller in 1935.

Personal life

As a student at the University of Nebraska in the early 1890s, Cather sometimes used the masculine nickname "William" and wore masculine clothing. A photograph in the University of Nebraska archives depicts Cather dressed like a young man and with "her hair shingled, at a time when females wore their hair fashionably long."

Throughout Cather's adult life, her most significant friendships were with women. These included her college friend Louise Pound; the Pittsburgh socialite Isabelle McClung, with whom Cather traveled to Europe and at whose Toronto home she stayed for prolonged visits; the opera singer Olive Fremstad; the pianist Yaltah Menuhin; and most notably, the editor Edith Lewis, with whom Cather lived the last 39 years of her life. Cather's sexual identity remains a point of contention among scholars. While many argue for Cather as a lesbian and interpret her work through a lens of queer theory, a highly vocal contingent of Cather scholars adamantly oppose such considerations. For example, scholar Janet Sharistanian has written, "Cather did not label herself a lesbian nor would she wish us to do so, and we do not know whether her relationships with women were sexual. In any case, it is anachronistic to assume that if Cather's historical context had been different, she would have chosen to write overtly about homoerotic love."

Cather's relationship with Edith Lewis began in the early 1900s. The two women lived together in a series of apartments in New York City from 1908 until the writer's death in 1947. From 1913 to 1927, Cather and Lewis lived at No. 5 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. They moved when the apartment was scheduled for demolition during the construction of the Broadway – Seventh Avenue New York City Subway line (now the 1 2 3 trains).Cather selected Lewis as the literary trustee for her estate.

Although she was born into a Baptist family, Cather began attending Episcopal services in 1906, and she joined the Episcopal Church in 1922.

Beginning in 1922, Cather spent summers on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick, Canada, where she bought a cottage in Whale Cove, on the Bay of Fundy and where her penultimate short story, "Before Breakfast," is set. It was the only house she ever owned. She valued the seclusion of the island, and did not mind that her cottage had neither indoor plumbing nor electricity. Anyone wishing to reach her could do so by telegraph or mail. She stopped going to Grand Manan Island when Canada entered World War II, since travel was more difficult, and Cather was experiencing a long recuperation from gall bladder surgery.

A resolutely private person, Cather had destroyed many old drafts, personal papers, and letters. Her will restricted the ability of scholars to quote from the personal papers that remain. However, in April 2013, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather—a collection of 566 letters Cather wrote to friends, family, and literary acquaintances such as Thornton Wilder and F. Scott Fitzgerald—was published, two years following the death of Cather's nephew and second literary executor, Charles Cather. Willa Cather's correspondence revealed complexity of her character and inner world. The letters do not disclose any intimate details about Cather's personal life, but they do "make clear that [her] primary emotional attachments were to women."

Writing influences

Cather admired Henry James as a "mighty master of language and keen student of human actions and motives.] She generally preferred past literary masters to contemporary writers. Some particular favorites were Dickens, Thackeray, Emerson, Hawthorne, Balzac, Flaubert, and Tolstoy.

While Cather enjoyed the novels of George Eliot, the Brontës, and Jane Austen, she regarded most women writers with disdain, judging them overly sentimental and mawkish. Cather's biographer James Woodress notes that Cather "so completely . . . embraced masculine values that when she wrote about women writers, she sounded like a patronizing man." One contemporary exception was Sarah Orne Jewett, who became Cather's friend and mentor. Jewett advised Cather to use female narrators in her fiction, but Cather preferred to write from a male point of view. Jewett also encouraged Cather to write about subjects that had "teased the mind" for years. Chief among these subjects were the people and experiences Cather remembered from her years in Nebraska. She dedicated O Pioneers!, the first novel in her Prairie Trilogy, to Jewett. Cather also admired the work of Katherine Mansfield, praising Mansfield's ability "to throw a luminous streak out onto the shadowy realm of personal relationships."

Cather's high regard for the immigrant families forging lives and enduring hardships on the Nebraska plains shaped a good deal of her fiction. As a child, she visited immigrant families in her area and raced home in "the most unreasonable state of excitement," feeling that she "had got inside another person's skin." Following a trip to Red Cloud in 1916 to visit her family, Cather decided to write a novel based on the events in the life of her childhood friend Annie Sadilek Pavelka, a Bohemian girl who became the model for the title character in My Ántonia. Cather was likewise fascinated by the French-Canadian pioneers from Quebec who had settled in the Red Cloud area while she was a girl.

During a brief stopover in Quebec with Edith Lewis in 1927, Cather was inspired to write a novel set in that French-Canadian city. Lewis recalled: "From the first moment that she looked down from the windows of the [Chateau] Frontenac [Hotel] on the pointed roofs and Norman outlines of the town of Quebec, Willa Cather was not merely stirred and charmed—she was overwhelmed by the flood of memories, recognition, surmise it called up; by the sense of its extraordinary French character, isolated and kept intact through hundreds of years, as if by a miracle, on this great un-French continent." Cather finished her novel Shadows on the Rock, an historical novel set in 17th-century Quebec, in 1931; it was later included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books of 1924–1944. The French influence is found in many other Cather works, including Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927) and her final, unfinished novel set in Avignon.

Literary style and themes

Although Cather began her writing career as a journalist, she made a distinction between journalism, which she saw as being primarily informative, and literature, which she saw as an art form. Cather's work is often marked by its nostalgic tone, her subject matter and themes drawn from memories of her early years on the American plains. Some critics have charged Cather with being out of touch with her times and failing to use more experimental techniques, such as stream of consciousness, in her writing. However, others have pointed out that Cather could follow no other literary path but her own:

    She had formed and matured her ideas on art before she wrote a novel. She had no more reason to follow Gertrude Stein and 
    James Joyce, whose work she respected, than they did to follow her. Her style solves the problems in which she was interested. 
    She wanted to stand midway between the journalists whose omniscient objectivity accumulate more fact than any character could 
    notice and the psychological novelist whose use of subjective point of view stories distorts objective reality. She developed her 
    theory on a middle ground, selecting facts from experience on the basis of feeling and then presenting the experience in a lucid, 
    objective style. Cather's style is not the accumulative cataloguing of the journalists, nor the fragmentary atomism of psychological 

In a 1920 essay on Willa Cather, H.L. Mencken apologized for having suggested that Cather was a talented but inconsequential imitator of Edith Wharton. He praised her for abandoning New England as a locale for the "Middle West of the great immigrations." Mencken describes My Antonia as a sudden leap forward by Cather. "Here was a novel planned with the utmost skill, and executed in truly admirable fashion." he wrote. "Here, unless I err gravely, was the best piece of fiction ever done by a woman in America."

The English novelist A. S. Byatt observes that with each work Cather reinvented the novel form "to look at a new human world." Byatt identifies some of Cather's major themes as "the rising and setting of the sun, the brevity of life, the relation between dailiness and the rupture of dailiness, the moment when 'desire shall fail'." Particularly in her frontier novels, Cather wrote of "life's terrors ... and its beauties". Like the exiled characters of Henry James, an author who had a great influence on Cather, most of Cather's major characters live as exiled immigrants, "people trying to make their way in circumstances strange to them". Joseph Urgo in Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration says Cather felt a connection between the immigrants' "sense of homelessness and exile" and her own feelings of exile when she lived on the frontier. Susan Rosowski wrote that Cather was "the first to give immigrants heroic stature in serious American literature."

Later years

Cather made her last trip to Red Cloud in 1931 for a family gathering following the death of her mother. She continued to stay in touch with her Red Cloud friends and she sent money to Annie Pavelka and other country families during the Depression years.

In 1932, Cather published Obscure Destinies, her final collection of short fiction, which contained one of her most highly regarded stories, "Neighbour Rosicky." Cather and Edith Lewis moved into a new apartment on Park Avenue, and Cather began work on her next novel, Lucy Gayheart, a book that revealed "its author's darkening vision as she began her seventh decade."

Cather suffered two devastating losses in 1938. In June, her favorite brother, Douglass, died of a heart attack. Cather was too grief-stricken to attend the funeral. Several months later, Isabelle McClung died. Cather and McClung had lived together when Cather first arrived in Pittsburgh, and while McClung eventually married and moved with her husband to Toronto, the two women remained devoted friends. Cather wrote friends that Isabelle was the one for whom all her books had been written.

Cather grew increasingly discouraged as the United States moved closer to involvement in World War II. When the French army surrendered to Nazi Germany, Cather wrote in her diary: "There seems to be no future at all for people of my generation." During the summer of 1940, Cather and Lewis went to Grand Manan for the last time, and Cather finished what was to be her final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, a novel much darker in tone and subject matter than her previous works. Sapphira lacks a moral sense and is not a character who evokes empathy. However, the novel was a great critical and commercial success, with an advance printing of 25,000 copies. It was then adopted by the Book of the Month Club, which bought more than 200,000 copies.

Although an inflamed tendon in her hand hampered her writing, Cather managed to finish a good part of a novel set in Avignon, France. However, Edith Lewis destroyed the manuscript, according to Cather's instructions, when Cather died. Cather's remaining papers reveal that Cather had titled the unfinished manuscript Hard Punishments and set it in the 14th century during the papal reign of Antipope Benedict XIV. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1943. In 1944, Cather received the gold medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an award given once a decade for an author's total accomplishments. Though Cather suffered from no specific medical problems in her last years, those closest to her felt that her health was deteriorating.

On April 24, 1947, Cather died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 73 in her home at 570 Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Cather was buried in the Old Burying Ground, behind the Jaffrey Center Meeting House in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Her grave site, which she shares with Edith Lewis, is at the southwest corner of the graveyard. She had first visited Jaffrey in 1917 with Isabelle McClung, staying at the Shattuck Inn, where she came late in life for the seclusion necessary for her writing. The inscription on her tombstone reads:

December 7, 1873–April 24, 1947
". . . that is happiness; to be dissolved
into something complete and great."
From My Antonia

Legacy and honors

    1955, The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation (now the Willa Cather Foundation) was founded to support 
     the study of her life and work, and to maintain many sites in her hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska.
    1962, Cather was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.[55]
    1973, the U.S. Postal Service honored Willa Cather by issuing a stamp bearing her image.
    1981, the U.S. Mint created the Willa Cather half-ounce gold medallion.[56]
    1986, Cather was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.
    2000, Cather was named a member of the inaugural class of Virginia Women in History.[57]
    2006, Willa Cather Foundation received a National Endowment of the Humanities grant "to develop its work, which includes maintaining a
    slice of Nebraskan prairie as “Catherland,” curating the Cather childhood home, holding Cather conferences, and publishing a Cather
    2011, Cather was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame.

Mary Jane Colter from Wikapedia 
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter (April 4, 1869 – January 8, 1958) was an American architect and designer. She was one of the very few female American architects in her day. She was the designer of many landmark buildings and spaces for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, notably in Grand Canyon National Park. Her work had enormous influence as she helped to create a style, blending Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission Revival architecture with Native American motifs and Rustic elements, that became popular throughout the Southwest.

Early life and education

Mary Colter was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to William H. Colter, an Irish immigrant, and Rebecca Crozier. Her family moved to Colorado and Texas before settling down in St. Paul, Minnesota, which she considered to be her home. There she graduated high school at the age of 14. After her father died in 1886, Colter attended the California School of Design (now the San Francisco Art Institute), and apprenticed with a local architectural firm. She then taught art, drafting, and architecture in St. Paul for some years. Colter taught at the Mechanic Arts High School for fifteen years and lectured at the University Extension School.


By one account, in 1901 Minnie Harvey Huckel helped Colter land a summer job with her family's Fred Harvey Company (operator of the famous railstop Harvey House restaurants), decorating the Indian Building at the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque (since demolished).

Colter began working full-time for the company in 1910, moving from interior designer to architect. For the next 38 years, Colter served as chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company. as one of the country's few female architects - and arguably the most outstanding - Colter worked in often rugged conditions to complete 21 landmark hotels, commercial lodges, and public spaces for the Fred Harvey Company, by then being run by the founder's sons.

Fred Harvey conquered the West along the Santa Fe's main route through strategic use of restaurant efficiency, clean-cut and pretty young women, high-end tourism, and quality souvenirs. Anthropologists on his staff located the most appealing Native American art and artifacts like pottery, jewelry, and leatherwork. His merchandisers designed goods based on those artifacts. And in strategic locations, Colter produced commercial architecture with striking decor, based on some concern for authenticity, floorplans calculated for good user experience and commercial function, and a playful sense of the dramatic inside and out.

The Santa Fe railroad bought the La Fonda hotel on the plaza of the old city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1925 and leased it to the Harvey Company to operate. For a major expansion, Colter was assigned to do the interior design and decorating. She hired artists and artisans from the nearby pueblos to make the furniture. Native American styles were employed in hand-crafted chandeliers, copper and tin lighting 


Desert View Watchtower (1932)
Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

fixtures, tiles and textiles, and other ornamentation. La Fonda became the most successful of the Harvey House hotels. Its striking blend of Pueblo people and Spanish artistic influences, today known locally as the Santa Fe Style, became very popular across the region.

Colter created a series of remarkable works in the Grand Canyon National Park, mostly on the South Rim: the 1905 Hopi House, the 1914 Hermit's Rest and observatory Lookout Studio, and the 1932 Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-tall (21 m) rock tower with a hidden steel structure, as well as the 1935 Bright Angel Lodge complex, and the 1922 Phantom Ranch buildings at the bottom of the canyon. Colter also decorated, but did not design, the park's El Tovar Hotel. In 1987, the Mary Jane Colter Buildings, as a group, were listed as a National Historic Landmark. (She also designed the 1936 Victor Hall for men, and the 1937 Colter Hall, a dormitory for Fred Harvey's women employees.)

Colter worked with Pueblo Revival architecture, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Mission Revival architecture, Streamline Moderne, American Craftsman, and Arts and Crafts Movement styles, often synthesizing several together evocatively. Colter's work is credited with inspiring the Pueblo Deco style.

The Harvey Company got the concession in 1922 to operate a camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Considering the Phantom Ranch's location, Colter's use of on-site fieldstone and rough-hewn wood was deemed the only practical thing for the permanent buildings that replaced tents. In the following years this innovative work became a de facto model for subsequent National Park Service and Civilian Conservation Corps structures, influencing the look and feel of an entire genre of parkitecture, often called National Park Service Rustic. Her structures at the Grand Canyon set the precedent for using on-site materials and bold, large-scale design elements.

For her Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim, she used a 6-foot (1.8 m) scale model to ensure that the lodge and cabins fit into the landscape. The lodge features a remarkable "geological fireplace" in the History Room, with rocks arranged ceiling to floor in the same order as the geologic strata along the Bright Angel Trail down the canyon wall.

A chain-smoking perfectionist, Colter cared about backstory and attractive features. She conceived Hermit's Rest as a sort of folly, as if it had been wired together by a reclusive mountain man. The Hopi House was a market for Native American crafts, made by Hopi artisans on the site, and designed in sandstone to resemble a Hopi pueblo. (Unfortunately, a recent cleaning eliminated the artificial age-effects.) The Watchtower was the product of travel and research, and she cared enough to herself prepare a written manual for guides. The original paintings inside the tower were by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. She also insisted on her proposed name "Phantom Ranch" (over "Roosevelt Ranch") to capitalize on better mental images.

Colter's pioneering masterwork may have been the 1923 El Navajo in Gallup, New Mexico, remarkable for its forward-looking fusion of a Native American-inspired design on the severe Art Deco building by Santa Fe Railway architect A. E. Harrison. Her breakthrough creation incorporated Navajo sand paintings and rugs with hand-carved and hand-painted furniture. The original plans sketched about 100 bedrooms and 15 shared baths, making the structure physically obsolete before it was razed to make way for widening Route 77 in 1957, shortly before Colter's death. (She saw demolitions of a few other projects before she died, causing her to despair, "It's possible to live too long.")

Mary Colter herself declared the 1930 La Posada Hotel to be her masterpiece. The sprawling, hacienda-style Spanish Colonial Revival building[17] in Winslow, Arizona, has been called "the last great railroad hotel built in America". She was architect and designer for the entire resort, from the buildings to the acres of gardens, the furniture, china—even the maids' uniforms. Closed in 1957, in a long decline it was first a drab 1960s office building for the Santa Fe, and then was empty when the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the hotel on its annual "Most Endangered" list.

Allen Affeldt heard about the endangered masterpiece, and in 1996 he and his wife Tina Mion, an artist, purchased it, and soon reopened parts of the hotel for business. Today a museum of Mion's paintings is on the second floor; works by Dan Lutzick line the sculpture court; a museum of Route 66 is going into the former depot. The compound and gardens, being restored to the original and intended grandeur, are the core elements of the La Posada Historic District on the National Register.

Late in her career, Colter designed the exuberant Harvey House restaurant at the 1939 Los Angeles Union Station. Under a spectacular arched ceiling, a dazzling floor appears to be random zigzags and geometrics; from another angle the pattern turns out to be a block-long Navajo blanket made of linoleum tiles. The fabulous dining room and her sleek, Streamline Moderne cocktail lounge are now padlocked except for occasional movie shoots and Los Angeles Conservancy tours.

Not long before her retirement, Colter took on the 1947 renovation of the Painted Desert Inn in Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park. During the Depression, a 1922 inn had been overhauled by Civilian Conservation Corps workers to the Mission Revival style, using local materials and Native American motifs. Then Colter supervised the refreshening, provided a new color scheme, and commissioned Hopi artist Fred Kabotie to put murals in the dining areas. Showing that she was unafraid of the modern when the situation called for it, Colter installed plate glass windows to open up views of the splendid scenery. Closed in 1963, the inn survived a threatened demolition, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It reopened in 2006, restored to the way it looked circa 1949 after Colter's redesign.

Colter was the creator of Mimbreño china and flatware for the glamorous Super Chief Chicago-Los Angeles rail service, begun in 1936 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Colter, herself by then an Indian art expert, based her designs on 1100 CE Mimbres patterns excavated by her friends Harriet and Cornelius Cosgrove at the Swarts Ruin in New Mexico from 1924 to 1927. Mimbreño china was produced by the Onondaga Pottery Co. of Syracuse, New York under its better-known trade name, Syracuse China, until 1970. The luxury Super Chief and business class dining services were discontinued after the train was turned over to Amtrak in May 1971 (today the Southwest Chief covers the route). Later that year Mimbreño plates and pieces became available to ordinary individuals for the first time, disposed of in two large public offerings. Mimbreño railroad china remains avidly and competitively collected, with single plates selling for many hundreds of dollars. (A line of authorized reproductions has been sold since 1989.)


Colter retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1948. She donated her collection of Native American pottery and Indian relics to Mesa Verde National Park. Four of her Grand Canyon National Park buildings are protected within the Mary Jane Colter National Historic Landmark District.
More on Mary Jane Colter - Here

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