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Libertarian Lessons from the "Little House"



(p. C25) Nothing about Laura Ingalls's birth to a modest Wisconsin family on Feb. 7, 1867, suggested she would become one of the most significant voices in the canon of the American frontier. A century and a half later, the contribution Laura Ingalls Wilder made still seems astonishing -- a fact not lost on her publisher. As a new anniversary-themed batch of "Little House on the Prairie" books rolled in this fall -- with homespun-looking covers and introductions by luminaries including Laura Bush and Patricia MacLachlan (author of the gentle Newbery Medal-winning novel "Sarah, Plain and Tall") -- I found myself plunging back into the "Little House" world I'd loved as a child, with a strange feeling of urgency.


. . .


"Little House in the Big Woods" was published in 1932, when Laura was 65 and Rose, her only child, was long divorced, an accomplished, but increasingly broke journalist and author. Rose Wilder Lane had lost both her own money and money she invested for her parents in the 1929 stock market crash, and they were scrounging by, with Almanzo hauling loads and Laura selling eggs and apples and writing occasional pieces about farm life.

Out of desperation Rose suggested that her mother write down the stories of her pioneer childhood, heavily revised the resulting manuscript and found a publisher. In the rest of the books, as well, she provided substantial editing. Some historians insist that Rose -- who later became an outspoken antigovernment polemicist and is called one of the godmothers of the libertarian movement, along with Ayn Rand -- should be considered the books' ghostwriter. Christine Woodside's recent book, "Libertarians on the Prairie," makes this case, cataloging libertarian messages Rose embedded in the books. (Some are overt: "The politicians are a-swarming in already," says one character in "The Long Winter." "They'll tax the lining out'n a man's pockets," he cries. "I don't see nary use for a county, nohow.")



For the full commentary, see:

MARIA RUSSO. "READER'S NOTEBOOK; A 'Little House' Tinged with Red and Blue." The New York Times (Fri., FEB. 10, 2017): C25.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date FEB. 7, 2017, and has the title "READER'S NOTEBOOK; Finding America, Both Red and Blue, in the 'Little House' Books.")


Woodside's book, mentioned above, is:

Woodside, Christine. Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2016.






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