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[timeline] 1848: First Women's Rights Conference at Seneca Falls, NY[timeline] 1869: First women's suffrage law passed in U.S. territory of Wyoming[timeline] 1909: Women garment workers strike in New York[timeline] 1920: 19th Amendment to Constitution is ratified, women citizens can vote[timeline] 1933: Frances Perkins is first woman in a president's cabinet[timeline] 1973:  Roe V. Wade legalizes abortion, Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in tennis match[timeline] 2000: World March of Women in Washington, DC

[graphic] Featured Properties


[photo]
The Pavelka Farmstead, near Bladen, Nebraska provided the setting for My Antonia, one of Willa Cather's best known works

Photograph courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society

Willa Cather Properties in Webster County, Nebraska

Willa Cather captured the spirit of the pioneer era as perhaps no other American author. Raised in Webster County, Nebraska, Cather drew upon her life and experiences there as an author. Many of her friends and places she knew from her childhood were used as characters in or settings for her novels and short stories. Twenty-six individual sites and four historic districts, all of which are related to Cather's life and writing, have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a thematic group. These significant places include rural landscapes, farmsteads, churches, a grave, railroad depot, government building, residential neighborhoods and commercial districts. Together these properties represent a cross-section of Webster County's environment and architectural character.

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Rural landscape of the Willa Cather Memorial Prarie

Photograph courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society

Cather's novels are often described as regional fiction and are universal in theme and significance. She received numerous awards and honors in her lifetime including the Pulitzer Prize, and several honorary degrees from major universities.Cather's family moved from Virginia to Catherton, Nebraska, when she was eight. From ages ten to 16 she spent most of her time in the city of Red Cloud. In Red Cloud and the sweeping prairies around it, she discovered the heroiric spirit that pervades her work. Eight of the 26 individual sites of this thematic group are located in the rural area between Red Cloud and Catherton. The power of her novels and stories and her success as a writer are directly related to her love of Webster County, and her use of this part of Nebraska as a source for subject, place, and character in many of her works. Cather stated in a 1921 interview ". . .years from eight to 15 are the formative period in a writer's life, when he unconsciously gathers basic material. He may acquire a great many interesting and vivid impressions in his mature years but his thematic material he acquires under 15 years of age."


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Home of Annie Pavelka, on whom the main of My Antonia is based

Photograph courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society
While some of Cather's characters and settings are fictional, her strongest portraits and most detailed descriptions are taken from her own life. Her most memorable character, Antonia, is drawn from the real-life Annie Pavelka. The Pavelka Farmstead, where Annie lived with her husband and children, is portrayed in Cather's novel My Antonia. The various ethnic culture's which existed in and around Cather's childhood home played a significant role in her writing, and this is particularly true of the Pavelka's Czech heritage protrayed in My Antonia.


The Willa Cather House, a National Historic Landmark, in Red Cloud, Nebraska

Photograph courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society

The house she grew up in from 1884 to 1890 in Red Cloud is fondly described in many of her works including The Song of the Lark, "Old Mrs. Harris," and "The Best Years." Much of the house has remained the same since Cather lived there, and her childhood room off the west end of the attic still retains some of the flowered wallpaper placed there by Cather as a girl. Overall, the Willa Cather properties are evidence of the importance of a sense of place to this author, who stated, "A book is made with one's own flesh and blood of years. . .it is cremated youth."


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