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Hello, Cather folk,
As i return to a couple of half-done projects involving Willa
Cather’s friendship with Sarah Orne Jewett, I have two questions
for the Cather hive mind.
!) The photograph of Cather we all know—Cather in a big
feather-trimmed hat, wearing a long necklace—that is routinely
captioned as Cather wearing a necklace that was a gift from
Jewett. I have seen a range of dates on this photograph, and if
anyone has a basis for a firm date, I’d be interested, but what
most interests and continues to trouble me is our seeming
collective assurance that we know for sure this necklace came
from Jewett. As far as i can tell the source for this
identification is Mildred Bennett’s
The World of Willa Cather. The caption to the photo there
reads, “After she joined the staff of ‘McClure’s,’ where she
soon became managing editor, Willa appeared in this brown silk
velvet dress with matching hat trimmed in gold and osprey
feathers. The necklace was a gift from Sarah Orne Jewett. Made
of white jade tinted with pink and green, it was something of a
display piece in the days before Jade became popular for
It’s a black and white photograph--how one could describe
the color of the dress based on such a photograph, let alone the
color of the necklace? As I recall, in the “Willa Cather: The
Road is All” documentary, Antoinette Turner claimed that Annie
Pavelka was in possession of the necklace and she played with it
as a child while visiting her grandmother's, but this anecdote
seems to me highly unlikely.
The world of Willa Cather came out in 1951 without
documentation and was reissued in 1961 with documentation, but
no documentation was added for the unnumbered pages on which the
photographs are reproduced. Any thoughts about the source of
this information and the reliability of that source?
In their introduction to the forthcoming Cather Studies
Willa Cather and the Nineteenth Century, Rick Millington
and Anne Kaufman point out, based on a consultation with a
clothing historian, that it’s not a 19th century necklace but
something more modern, a “tango necklace.” This information only
deepens the mystery for me.
2) Can anyone point me to any substantive discussions of
Cather’s work on
The Best Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett that I may have
missed? I have consulted all of the biographies, as well as
discussions by Ann Romines and Marilee Lindemann and essays by
Marco Portales and Cynthia Goheen on the textual history of
Country of the Pointed Firs.
Thanks in advance for leads and suggestions either on or off