My Ántonia was enthusiastically received in 1918 when it was first published. It was considered a masterpiece and placed Cather in the forefront of women novelists. Today, it is considered as her first masterpiece. Cather was praised for bringing the American West to life and making it personally interesting. It brought place forward almost as if it were one of the characters, while at the same time playing upon the universality of the emotions, which in turn promoted regional American literature as a valid part of mainstream literature.:vii
While interpretations vary, My Ántonia is clearly an elegy to those families who built new lives west of the Mississippi River and highlights the role of women pioneers in particular.
Cather also makes a number of comments concerning her views on women's rights and there are many disguised sexual metaphors in the text.:xv
My Ántonia is a selection of The Big Read, the community-wide reading program of The National Endowment for the Arts.