|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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
|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
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). 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
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
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,
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
Letters from a Cat (1879)
A Century of Dishonor (1881)
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,
Pansy Billings and Popsy: Two Stories
of Girl Life (1898)
Glimpses of California 1914
Mary Jane Colter from Wikapedia
|Willa Sibert Cather from
|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."
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).
|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
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
become a part of something entire, whether it is sun
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 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.
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
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."
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
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
James Joyce, whose work she respected,
than they did to follow her. Her style solves the problems in which she
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
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
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
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
THE TRUTH AND CHARITY OF HER GREAT
SPIRIT WILL LIVE ON IN THE WORK
WHICH IS HER ENDURING GIFT TO HER
COUNTRY AND ALL ITS PEOPLE.
". . . 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
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.
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.
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.
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
2011, Cather was inducted into the
New York Writers Hall of Fame.
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.
|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
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
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
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 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"
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