This post by Abbie Johnson Taylor
When I was a kid, I read all the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, some of them more than once. To this day, I still remember the names of all the books and the order in which they were written: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plumb Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. For those of you not familiar with this series, these books in chronological order tell the true story of how Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Recently, I was fascinated when I read A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses by Susan Wittig Albert.
This Show was inspired by the books
This is a fictionalized account of the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, spanning ten years between 1928 and 1938 while they were collaborating on most of the books in the series. Telling the story mostly from Rose Wilder Lane’s point of view, the author gives a brief account of Rose’s life growing up. The family was forced to move from their South Dakota home after Rose accidentally set the house on fire at the age of three by putting too much wood in the stove. They settled on a farm near Mansfield, Missouri.
Rose felt guilty for causing the fire and resented farm life. A free spirit, she finally left home at the age of eighteen and became a journalist, traveling all over the country and overseas, getting married and divorced, and giving birth to a son who died as an infant. She finally returned to the family farm in Missouri in 1928 when she felt obligated to help her aging parents. She built them a separate house on the property, wired both houses for plumbing and electricity, and took over the main farm house.
To tell the truth, Rose Wilder Lane was more her mother’s ghost writer. She never wanted credit for the books. Laura wrote the original manuscripts by hand, and Rose typed them, editing and rewriting as she went along. At first, Laura didn’t like her daughter’s revisions, but after Farmer Boy was rejected the way her mother wrote it, she grudgingly agreed to let Rose do the revisions.
Rose not only wrote magazine articles but also fiction, which her mother despised. This was one of many sources of tension between mother and daughter. Several of Rose’s sshort stories and a couple of novels were published during this ten-year period.
Susan Wittig Albert describes other stresses Rose faced during those years. Needless to say, the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing depression caused financial worries. Although Rose and her mother lived in separate houses, her mother constantly phoned or stopped by for tea, interrupting her writing. Her writer friends often visited or stayed with her for long periods of time, and her mother didn’t like any of them and was disturbed by gossip about them in the small town. Rose also took in two teen-aged orphaned boys and cared for them as if they were her sons. This all became too much for her, and in 1935, she moved to Columbia, Missouri, so she could be on her own. In 1938, she left Missouri for good and moved to New York where she started doing more political writing.
With her daughter’s help, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the first eight books in the Little House series. After These Happy Golden Years was published, Laura wrote The First Four Years on her own. This details her early life with her husband Almanzo. Since Rose didn’t have a hand in this book, readers were disappointed because the prose wasn’t the same as in the other books.
According to the epilog, Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1958 after being diagnosed with diabetes. Rose Wilder Lane lived for another eleven years. The book also provides a bibliography of material by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and others.
As I said before, I read all the books in the Little House series including The First Four Years. I must have been around twelve when I read that one, and I didn’t notice a difference in the prose, but kids don’t notice these things or care. It’s all about the story.
Reading these books helped me put my life in perspective at such a young age. I became thankful for electricity, hot water, and plumbing and was glad we didn’t have to deal with blizzards, drought, or grasshoppers. As an adult, reading A Wilder Rose gave me a glimpse into Rose Wilder Lane’s writing life which I found intriguing. I recommend this book to adults interested in learning more about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.
Did you read the Little House books? Were there any favorites that you read more than once?
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of: