|Willa Cather was born in Virginia, but her family journeyed west to acquire land, and she was raised in Nebraska from the age of 9. She graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895, and moved from the rural west to the urban east after college, becoming a journalist and editor and settling, finally, in New York City. Her first published book was a volume of poetry, and she continued to work as a journalist, until the publication of her first novel, ALEXANDER'S BRIDGE in 1912, enabled her to write fiction full time. She traveled to Europe in 1902, and to the Southwest in 1912; both visits enabled her to put her Nebraska childhood in a larger context. She returned to all these places in her fiction--famously, the prairie towns she knew so well, in O PIONEERS. Cather, who often dressed as a boy in her youth, was a lifelong lesbian, though perhaps this was expressed only in ardent friendships with her many women friends. She often used male narrators in her works, and favored strong, independent women--often artists. Her perennial theme was the artist's need for freedom, expressed vividly and convincingly in such works as THE SONG OF THE LARK and LUCY GAYHEART.