The Women Behind Little House on the Prairie


In the news roundup last week I linked to Judith Thurman’s article about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose, but I wanted to mention it again because it’s pretty fascinating. I read the Little House on the Prairie series when I was in elementary school but I never knew much about the author. Since I was so ignorant about the Wilder women, I was really shocked by a lot of things in this article. The first thing that surprised me was that Laura’s mother, Caroline Ingalls, was a “woman of some education and gentility who had also taught school before marrying a pioneer.” It’s interesting to me that she could have had a comfortable life as a teacher but chose the incredibly difficult life on the frontier. Most surprising to me was that Rose Wilder heavily edited, perhaps even ghostwrote, the books attributed to Laura. The details of life on the prairie came from Laura, but Rose was the one who romanticized the story, glossing over some of the harsh realities. Thurman describes Rose’s life as:

The transformation of a barefoot Cinderella from the Ozarks into a stylish cosmopolite who acquired several languages, enjoyed smoking and fornication, and dined at La Rotonde when she wasn’t motoring around Europe in her Model T is, like the Little House books themselves, an American saga.

Apparently Rose Wilder was quite a character. I’m also interested in the relationship between Rose and Laura, which seemed to be somewhat rocky. Rose blamed her parents for the difficult conditions she grew up in and said her mother “made me so miserable as a child that I never got over it.” All in all, this is a truly fascinating article and fans of the books should check it out. If you want to read more about the Wilders, head on over to Beyond Little House for more great information.

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