Philip L. and Helen Cather Southwick
Title: Philip L. and Helen Cather
boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Collection Number: MS
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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,
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
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
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
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
Southwick, Helen Cather -- Archives
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. One of
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Sapphira and the
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. The Professor's
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Shadows on the
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Lucy Gayheart
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Obscure
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. Not Under
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947. The Old Beauty and
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.
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.
Box 1. Folder 10. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 11. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 12. Edited typescript, The Professor's House, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 13. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 14. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 15. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 16. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs.
Box 1. Folder 17. Edited typescript, Shadows on the Rock, pgs.
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.
Box 2. Folder 2. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs.
Box 2. Folder 3. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs.
Box 2. Folder 4. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs.
Box 2. Folder 5. Edited typescript, Lucy Gayheart, pgs.
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
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
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