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Cather, Willa

The Nebraska State Journal celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with a July 24, 1927, special edition, which included reminiscences by former Journal staff members. Retired reporter John M. Thompson recalled, among others, Willa Cather, who in her student days was dramatic and music critic for the State Journal.

"It is now the proper thing to say that her talent was early recognized by every one about the newspaper office where she was trying her wings. I remember the terrible scrawl which she made when using pen and ink and there is a legend about the office that her spelling was not exactly up to date. Her spelling was all right for those who understood it. It was modeled somewhat after the orthography of the Shakespearean period and was never quite the same from day to day.

"I have 'been told,' as Doctor Brady would say, that a certain literary organization in Lincoln rejected Miss Cather for membership during her student days because of her independence of thought or for some other reason. I doubt if Miss Cather ever applied for membership in any literary society. . . . . If the tale be true the society is forever barred from claiming Miss Cather was 'One of Ours.'

"In addition to wearing bobbed hair when bobbed hair was not the vogue Miss Cather wore short narrow skirts with a little cap and jacket and carried a cane about the university campus and was quite boyish in appearance. At the close of her college course she actually created a furore. She appeared in a ball dress and for the first time her friends beheld her as girlish, youthful and charming. . . . .

"If Miss Cather was not up to date in spelling she was fully thirty years ahead of the times in setting the style now called bobbed hair. Now that this is the style I have no doubt Miss Cather shows her independence of thought by refusing to follow it."

(September 1998)



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