Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version

Summer 2017


Biography, Volume 40, Number 3, Summer 2017, pp. 399-424 (Article)

DOI: 10.1353/bio.2017.0031


Copyright © 2017 Biographical Research Center. Published by University of Hawai'i Press. Distributed by Project Muse. Used by permission.


This essay provides an explanation for American author Willa Cather’s confounding decision to ban the publication of her letters, arguing that one must understand the specific personal and psychological contexts of the execution of her final will in 1943. Since the ban on publication has now been lifted by Cather’s executors, the essay uses ample direct evidence from the letters themselves to analyze the concerns that led to Cather’s choice. I argue that Cather’s ban emerged from a time of grief, physical pain, and growing hopelessness about the future while the world was at war.