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Philip L. and Helen Cather Southwick Collection

Title: Philip L. and Helen Cather Southwick Collection

Collector: Southwick, Helen Cather

Dates: 1865-1987

Quantity: 6 boxes (2.5 linear feet)

Collection Number: MS 0077

Language: English

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Historical Records Statement: Please see our statement on historical records and materials.

Preferred Citation: Philip L. and Helen Cather Southwick Collection (MS 0077). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.

Alternative Format: None


Willa Cather was born in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, on 7 December 1873, the first child of Charles Cather and Mary Virginia Boak Cather. In 1883, when Cather was nine, the family relocated to Webster County, Nebraska, to join her grandparents. Charles Cather homesteaded for one year before resettling the family in Red Cloud, Nebraska. In 1890, Cather graduated from high school, moved to Lincoln, and enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In 1893 she began working as the theater and drama critic for the Nebraska State Journal and the Lincoln Courier. While attending classes she wrote for the student newspaper, The Hesperian, and became the managing editor in 1893. She graduated from the University in 1895 and returned to Red Cloud briefly before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh, Cather worked as managing editor for the women's magazine Home Monthly until 1897. Beginning in 1901, she taught classes at Central High School in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. After six years, Cather moved to New York City where she found a job on the editorial staff of McClure's Magazine. She eventually became managing editor, a position she held until 1912, when she left the magazine to devote her time entirely to writing.

Cather wrote short stories, essays, and novels that focused on her Nebraska experience, her early years in Virginia, her life in New York and Pittsburgh, and her travels to New Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Her novels include Alexander's Bridge (1912), O Pioneers! (1913), My Antonia (1918), A Lost Lady (1923), One of Ours (1922), The Professor's House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), Shadows on the Rock (1931), Lucy Gayheart (1935), and Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940). Her short story collections include The Troll Garden (1905), Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920) and Obscure Destinies (1932).

Cather won several awards for her work. In 1923, she received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book One of Ours, and in 1930 she was awarded the Howells Medal from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for the novel Death Comes for the Archbishop. She received the Prix Femina Americaine in 1932 and the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1944 for her distinguished literary accomplishments. Cather also received honorary degrees from the University of Nebraska, the University of Michigan, the University of California, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia.

Cather died on 24 April 1947 in New York City.


Helen Cather Southwick is the daughter of Willa Cather's brother, James Cather. Helen grew up in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and still remembers visits from her aunt. She met her husband, Philip L. Southwick, while both were students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For more information please see the Helen Cather Southwick or Philip L. Southwick biographies written by their son Jim Southwick.

Helen Louise Cather was born in Red Cloud, Nebraska, on 15 June 1918. Her parents were Willa Cather's brother James Cather and Ethel May (Garber) Cather, who was related through her father to Silas Garber. Helen has vivid memories of Willa Cather's visits to Red Cloud, during which Helen and her cousin Mary Virginia Auld would often serve their aunt afternoon tea.

Helen lived in Red Cloud until 1931, when her family moved to Long Beach, California. Following high school graduation, she attended Long Beach City College for two years. She returned to Red Cloud in the summer of 1939 to help with the care of her invalid Grandmother Garber and that fall enrolled at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), where she pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma. Shortly thereafter she met Philip L. (Phil) Southwick, a masters degree candidate in chemistry, who was earning extra money by tutoring members of her sorority.

After graduating from UNL and becoming engaged to Phil, she went home to California in June 1941, and joined the personnel department of Douglas Aircraft Company. In the summer of 1942, she returned to Nebraska for her marriage to Phil on September 1st at her Aunt Elsie's Lincoln home. Following the wedding, she and Phil traveled to Champagne, Illinois, where Phil was pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Upon completion of Phil's studies, they moved to New Jersey, where Phil had accepted a position in the research laboratories of Merck and Company. Their home in Plainfield, New Jersey, was conveniently close to New York City, permitting frequent visits to her Aunt Willa's apartment.

In 1946, Philip obtained a faculty position at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a few months later, on 18 December 1946, Helen gave birth to their son, James Philip (Jim) Southwick.

During her son's early childhood years, Helen remained a full-time homemaker, taking particular pleasure in gardening. As Jim was finishing the sixth grade, Shady Side Academy, a Pittsburgh prep school, was preparing to open a middle school in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, quite close to the Southwick's home. It was decided the Jim should be enrolled there, and when the school learned that Helen had had experience working in the library at UNL, she was offered the job of running the new Shady Side Academy Middle School Library; she accepted. After several years at the middle school, Helen moved to a part-time position at the Shady Side Academy Senior School Library and continued to work there until her retirement.

Since childhood, Helen has had a keen interest in the life and works of Willa Cather. She is a long-time member of the Board of Governors of Red Cloud's Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation and has for many years enjoyed sharing with Cather scholars her personal recollections of her aunt as well as photos and other mementos. After acquiring Willa Cather's Grand Manan Cottage from Edith Lewis in 1965, she and Phil devoted much time and energy to its restoration. In 1982, she published an article dealing with Willa Cather's Pittsburgh years, "Willa Cather's Early Career: Origins of a Legend"in Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 65:2 (April 1982), 85-98. And in the summer of 2000, she journeyed to Lincoln to present a 1923 portrait of her aunt by the Russian émigré artist Nicolai Fechin to UNL's Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery.

Following Phil's death in 1992, Helen left Pittsburgh and joined her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in Utah's beautiful Heber Valley.

Philip Lee Southwick was born at Lincoln General Hospital, Lincoln, Nebraska, on 15 November 1916. His parents were Philip Orin Southwick, a 1915 graduate of University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), whose family owned the First National Bank of Friend, Nebraska, and Dorothy Harpham Southwick, whose family owned Harpham Brothers, a leather goods manufacturer in Lincoln. (Because there was at that time no hospital in Friend, Mrs. Southwick stayed with her parents for the last month of her pregnancy.)

Young Phil grew up in Friend. He was active in the Boy Scouts and compiled an outstanding record in school. He was valedictorian of his class at Friend High School and a member of an undefeated Friend High School football team that had only 11 players on its roster.

In 1935 he enrolled at UNL on a Regent's scholarship. His continued academic success was rewarded with election to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma XI and graduation with "High Distinction" in 1939. That fall he returned to pursue his Masters in chemistry, and it was then that he met Helen Cather.

After receiving his M.S. in the spring of 1940, Phil was awarded a Rohm and Haas fellowship, which enabled him to begin working toward his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Illinois. During Phil's first year in Champaign-Urbana, he and Helen Cather announced their engagement. Following their marriage in Lincoln on 1 September 1942, Phil returned with his bride to Illinois.

Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 1943, Phil accepted a position in the research laboratories of Merck and Company in Rahway, New Jersey, where he was involved in early antibiotic research.

Realizing that freedom to pursue his own research interests was more important to him than a high salary, Dr. Southwick left Merck in 1946 and accepted a faculty position at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During a 36 year teaching career, he supervised the work of 55 Ph.D. candidates and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom remained life-long friends. Among his numerous honors and awards were the Carnegie Teaching Award (1953) and election to the New York Academy of Sciences. Following retirement from the active teaching faculty, he continued to pursue his research interests until the time of his death.

Despite his heavy work load, Professor Southwick maintained a serious commitment to several hobbies, including ice skating, photography and skiing, interests which he shared with his son, James Philip Southwick (born shortly after his parents' arrival in Pittsburgh.) In later years he was active in the Pittsburgh Bibliophiles and in the restoration of Willa Cather's cottage on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.

Lee Liggett, a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity brother, provided a fitting epitaph: " He is remembered by his many friends as brilliant, modest, sensible, unassuming, a man of high principles and a solid citizen."

Scope and Content:

The Southwick materials include correspondence written to Cather in regard to her works, particularly One of Ours and Sapphira and the Slave Girl. Of great significance are the manuscripts represented in the collection, including revisions made in Cather's hand to eleven of her books and short stories. The collection contains photographs of Cather throughout her life, including her travels to Europe. There are also photographs of Willow Shade, Cather's early home, and general group photographs of Cather friends and family. Significant items also include Cather's scrapbook highlighting her trips to Europe in 1902 and 1908. Additional items include general newspaper clippings relating to Cather, as well as a large map of Rome that Cather owned. The collection also includes correspondence written to Edith Lewis from her friend, Stephen Tennant.


Cather, Willa, 1873-1947

McClung, Isabelle

Southwick, Helen Cather -- Archives

Lewis, Edith

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. One of Ours

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Sapphira and the Slave Girl

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. The Professor's House

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Shadows on the Rock

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Lucy Gayheart

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Obscure Destinies

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Not Under Forty

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. The Old Beauty and Others

Series Description: Series 1: Willa Cather

This series includes correspondence written by Willa Cather to her father Charles F. Cather, her mother Mary Virginia "Jennie" Boak Cather, her sister Elsie Cather, who is also called "Bobbie," and a few letters to her brothers, Roscoe and Douglass. There are letters from "fans" of her works. There are numerous manuscripts, including a holograph revision, in Cather's hand, of the essay "Katherine Mansfield" found in the collection of essays titled Not Under Forty. Other manuscripts are from Cather's novel or short stories.

Series 2: Helen Cather Southwick

This series include letters written to Helen Louise Cather Southwick by Willa Cather, members of her family, and the extended Cather family.

Series 3: Edith Lewis and Stephen Tennant

This series contains correspondence that Stephen Tennant sent to Edith Lewis and manuscripts, poetry, and artwork created by Tennant. His scrapbook includes artwork and poetry written during his travels.

Series 4: Photographs and Scrapbook

This series includes photographic prints as well as negatives of Willa Cather, her family, friends, and environment. Additional photographs, postcards, and newspaper clippings are included in a scrapbook Cather created about her travels in Europe during 1902 and 1908.

Container List: Series 1: Willa CatherBox 1. Folder 1. Correspondence, 1911-1922Item 1. Handwritten letter, Cather to Elsie Cather, 1911(?), Aug. 30 Item 2. Letter, Cather to Charles F. Cather, 1913, Apr. 17(?) Item 3. Handwritten letter, Cather to Charles F. Cather, 1914, Sept. 25 Item 4. Handwritten letter, Cather to Douglass Cather, 1916, July 8 Item 5. Handwritten letter, Cather to Elsie Cather, 1916, Dec. 30 Item 6. Handwritten letter, Cather to Virginia Cather, 1917, Feb. 2 Box 1. Folder 2. Correspondence, 1923-1929 undated Box 1. Folder 3. Correspondence, 1930-1941 undated Box 1. Folder 4. Correspondence, Langston Hughes, 1941, Mar. 21 undated Box 1. Folder 5. Correspondence, to Cather, 1913-1929 Box 1. Folder 6. Correspondence, to Cather, 1930-1958 Box 1. Folder 7. Correspondence, fragments, undated Box 1. Folder 8. Willa Cather on Writing, Not Under Forty, 1922 Box 1. Folder 9. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs. 1-66, 1925 Box 1. Folder 10. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs. 67-113, 1925 Box 1. Folder 11. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs. 114-153, 1925 Box 1. Folder 12. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs. 154-229, 1925 Box 1. Folder 13. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs. 1-34 1931 Box 1. Folder 14. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs. 35-73 1931 Box 1. Folder 15. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs. 74-111 1931 Box 1. Folder 16. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs. 112-181 1931 Box 1. Folder 17. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs. 182-229 1931 Box 1. Folder 18. Edited typescript, setting copy, "Neighbour Rosicky," Obscure Destinies, 1932 Box 1. Folder 19. Edited typescript, "Neighbour Rosicky," Obscure Destinies, 1932 Box 1. Folder 20. Edited typescript, setting copy, "Old Mrs. Harris," Obscure Destinies, 1932 Box 1. Folder 21. Edited typescript, setting copy, "Two Friends" in Obscure Destinies 1932 Box 2. Folder 1. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs. 1-23, 1935 Box 2. Folder 2. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs. 24-70, 1935 Box 2. Folder 3. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs. 71-118, 1935 Box 2. Folder 4. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs. 119-160, 1935 Box 2. Folder 5. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs. 161-190, 1935 Box 2. Folder 6. Edited typescript, setting copy, holograph revision, "Katherine Mansfield," Not Under Forty, 1936 Box 2. Folder 7. Edited typescript, setting copy, incomplete "148 Charles Street," Not Under Forty, 1936 Box 2. Folder 8. Edited typescript, setting copy, "Miss Jewett," Not Under Forty, 1936 Box 2. Folder 9. Edited typescript, early version, "Before Breakfast," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 10. Edited typescript, early version, "Before Breakfast," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 11. Edited typescript, early version, "Before Breakfast," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 12. Edited typescript, early version, "Before Breakfast," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 13. Typescript, clean copy, "The Best Years," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 14. Edited typescript, early version, "The Old Beauty," The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 15. Typescript, setting copy, The Old Beauty and Others, 1948 Box 2. Folder 16. Galley fragment, unknown typescript Box 2. Folder 17. Typescript fragment, about Willa Cather, E.K. Brown(?) Box 2. Folder 18. Cather notebook page, undated Box 2. Folder 19. List, translated works by Cather, undated Box 2. Folder 20. Map of Rome (see map cases) Box 2. Folder 21. Journal article, undated Box 2. Folder 22. Newspaper clippings, 1938-1983, undated Box 2. Folder 23. Correspondence, James Woodress, 1985-1987 Box 2. Folder 24. Correspondence, Cather family, 1919-1972, undated Series 2: Helen Cather SouthwickBox 2. Folder 25. Correspondence, Helen Cather Southwick, 1931-1946, undated Box 2. Folder 26. Correspondence, to Helen Cather Southwick from Edith Lewis, 1951, Oct. 7-1958, Sept. 18 Box 2. Folder 27. Correspondence, to Helen Cather Southwick from Edith Lewis, 1960, Mar. 9-1965, Feb. 15 Box 2. Folder 28. Correspondence, to Helen Cather Southwick from Edith Lewis, 1965, May 1-1966, Mar. 28, undated Box 2. Folder 29. Correspondence, to Helen Cather Southwick, 1980-1982 Box 3. Folder 1. Correspondence, to Helen Cather Southwick, 1962-1992 Box 3. Folder 2. Labels, envelopes, misc. items, Helen Cather Southwick Series 3: Edith Lewis and Stephen TennantBox 3. Folder 3. Edith Lewis, correspondence, 1939-1956, undated Box 3. Folder 4. Edith Lewis, notebooks, journals, 1950, 1961, 1967 Box 3. Folder 5. Stephen Tennant, correspondence, 1951 undated Box 3. Folder 6. Stephen Tennant, manuscript fragment, undated Box 3. Folder 7. Stephen Tennant, artwork and poetry, undated (see also Cather oversize box 3 for scrapbook) Box 3. Folder 8. Stephen Tennant, notes, undated Box 3. Folder 9. Stephen Tennant, "Le Livre de Ma Vie," undated Box 3. Folder 10. Stephen Tennant, clippings and collected materials Series 4: Photographs and ScrapbookBox 3. Folder 11. Helen Cather Southwick's Baby Book, 1918 Box 3. Folder 12. Photographs, 1-8, Willa Cather, 1865, 1874, 1880, undated Box 3. Folder 13. Photographs, 9-13, Willa Cather, 1893, 1894, 1895 Box 3. Folder 14. Photographs, 14-19, Willa Cather, 1895, 1898, 1902 Box 3. Folder 15. Photographs, 20-24, Willa Cather, 1905, undated Box 3. Folder 16. Photographs, 25-39, 313-315, Willa Cather, 1908, 1916, 1917 Box 4. Folder 1. Photographs, 40-50, 302, and 306, Willa Cather, 1917, 1918, 1920 Box 4. Folder 2. Photographs, 51-64, 316-317, Willa Cather, 1920, 1922, 1923 Box 4. Folder 3. Photographs, 65-72, 318-321, Willa Cather, 1920, 1922, 1923 Box 4. Folder 4. Photographs, 73-94, 322-323, Willa Cather, Charles Cather, Jessie Cather Auld, 1920, 1924 Box 4. Folder 5. Photographs, 95-107, Willa Cather, 1920 Box 4. Folder 6. Photographs, 108-122, 324-326, Willa Cather 1920, 1927, undated Box 4. Folder 7. Photographs, 123-133, Willa Cather, 1920, undated Box 4. Folder 8. Photographs, 134-142, Willa Cather, 1930, 1931, undated Box 4. Folder 9. Photographs, 143-150, Willa Cather, Mary Virginia Auld, 1932, 1933, undated Box 5. Folder 1. Photographs, 151-164, Willa Cather, 1932, 1936, undated Box 5. Folder 2. Photographs, 165-172, Willa Cather, undated Box 5. Folder 3. Photographs, 173-184, Willa Cather, undated Box 5. Folder 4. Photographs, 185-197, Willa Cather, undated Box 5. Folder 5. Photographs, 198-205, 327, Willa Cather, undated Box 5. Folder 6. Photographs, 206-223, 328-335, Willa Cather, William Cather, Grand Manan, 1920, undated Box 5. Folder 7. Photographs, 224-232, 336-339, Cather friends and family, Charles Cather, Jim Cather, 1870, undated Box 5. Folder 8. Photographs, 233-237, 307, 308, 312, and 340-349, Cather friends and family, Helen Cather, Jessica Cather Auld, Douglas Cather, Roscoe Cather, Elsie Cather, Edith Lewis Box 5. Folder 9. Photographs, 238-242, 350-366, Cather friends and family, Jan and Isabelle Hambourg, Winchester, Virginia, 1904, 1930, undated Box 6. Folder 1. Photographs, 243-264, 367-369, Cather family images undated Box 6. Folder 2. Photographs, 265-288, 370-379, Cather family images undated Box 6. Folder 3. Photographs, 289-301, Cather family images, 1973, undated Box 6. Folder 4. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 1-7 Box 6. Folder 5. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 8-14 Box 6. Folder 6. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 15-21 Box 6. Folder 7. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 22-28 Box 6. Folder 8. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 29-35 Box 6. Folder 9. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 36-43 Box 6. Folder 10. Cather's Europe scrapbook, leaves 44-46

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