Little House at the New Yorker

If you enjoyed the
Little House books
by Laura Ingalls Wilder,
there’s a New
Yorker article
about Wilder and her daughter,
Rose Wilder Lane.

I haven’t reread the books in a while, but here are some
thoughts that occur to me reading the article:

  • I hadn’t remembered that the Ingalls family were illegal
    settlers in Little House on the Prairie.
  • Part of the article is a survey of other literature about
    the books. There’s a lot of material for research here, since
    the original pencil-written legal pads on which Laura drafted
    the books have been preserved. It’s not clear whether we have
    the typewritten versions that Rose submitted for publication,
    but apparently the scholars are assuming that most of the
    differences between Laura’s drafts and the published versions
    are Rose’s editing. It gives one little confidence in
    literary scholarship as a whole that there the scholars who
    have examined this material come to drastically different
    conclusions about the extent of Rose’s contribution. Some of
    them apparently believe that Rose was the real author, using
    Laura’s drafts as raw material, and others believe, “Wilder
    demonstrated a high degree of writing competence from the
    beginning, and her daughter’s contribution to the
    final products, while important, was less significant than has
    been asserted.” (Quoted from John Miller in his introduction
    to Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder. )
  • Another big part of the article is the history of the Wilder
    family reaction to twentieth century politics. They were
    supportive of the William Jennings Bryan free silver
    movement. Rose became a supporter of Eugene Debs, a
    socialist, later flirted with communism, and after that
    espoused what we now call libertarian principles, and in fact
    may have been one of the first people to use that term. Laura was a
    Democrat until the late 1920’s, but decided that the party was
    committed to taking money from the farmers and giving it to
    the urban poor, and was quite upset at the election of
    Franklin Roosevelt. She believed (ignoring railroads, free
    schools, and government-backed credit) that the Ingalls family
    had accomplished what they had with no government assistence.

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