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Willa Cather

An excerpt from Chapter 6, “Making It in New York”:

Willa Cather’s decision to settle in New York was not made as hastily as her abrupt departure from Pittsburgh would suggest. She had often dreamed of one day moving there, and there were logical reasons for her to make the city her permanent home. By the early twentieth century, New York had long held the title as the nation’s most populous city and had displaced Boston as the cultural capital of the United States. As a center for literature, painting, and music, it was a natural place for aspiring artists to settle. Cather believed that recognition there as a literary artist was the highest honor to which she could aspire.

During her years in Pittsburgh, Cather had visited New York more than half a dozen times. Nearly everything important to her could be found there: opera, concerts, plays, and book and magazine publishers, as well as the opportunity for friendships with leading artists, musicians, and writers. Cather would always remember her Nebraska years, and the family and friends there who had nurtured her. Those years had given her material for her literary art. Now, in her new environment, Cather believed she would be encouraged to emerge as an artist in her own right. Before that could happen, however, she had to continue to earn her living as a journalist. . . .