Willa Cather, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Nebraska author renowned for her portrayal of the lives of pioneer settlers in the Heartland, was honored Wednesday with the unveiling of a bronze statue in her likeness in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Each state has two statues at the Capitol and Nebraska has now replaced both of its in a space of 4 years. A statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear was unveiled in 2019.
Cather is the first Pulitzer Prize winner to be honored in the Capitol and the man who made the statue, sculptor and Creighton University professor Littleton Alston, is the first Black artist to have work represented in the national collection.
Alston sculpted Cather in motion, wearing a large brimmed hat and walking through the open Nebraska prairie with a walking stick in her right hand and pen and paper in her left with the state flower and bird, Goldenrod and the Western meadowlark, at her feet.
Governor Jim Pillen and Nebraska’s entire Congressional delegation helped with the unveiling, then Pillen quoted Cather and praised Alston’s statue of her.
3rd-District Congressman Adrian Smith of Gering called Cather a trailblazer in the literary world who never lost her Nebraska roots.
Senator Deb Fischer said Cather’s fiction preserves the core of the Nebraska spirit.
House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York told Gov Pillen, “today, we’re all Nebraskans,” then praised Cather and Standing Bear as fitting representatives of Nebraska.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy told the crowd that Cather’s prose is still celebrated because it gave a voice to pioneers who chose to take a chance for a better life
Cather spent her young years in Red Cloud and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895. She won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel “One of Ours.”