How a champion of Ayn Rand shaped the Little House series.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are a publishing phenomenon, with about 60 million copies sold since their inception in 1932. Journalist and editor Woodside (Energy Independence: Your Everyday Guide to Reducing Fuel Consumption, 2008, etc.) was among many young readers obsessed with the series and its author: “an urge to know the real Laura gripped me,” writes the author, who for 40 years read everything she could find about her. Among those books was William Holtz’s The Ghost in the Little House (1993), a biography of Rose Wilder Lane, Laura’s daughter, which revealed that Rose “was a very important quiet partner” in writing the series, which she informed with her conservative political views. His disclosure met with anger from Laura’s fans, exhibited in such acts as anonymous phone calls berating him for sullying Laura’s reputation. Wilder historian William Anderson published scholarly articles drawing the same conclusion. Woodside has examined family papers that support those findings. Although she elaborates on both points, she does not offer a substantially new view of either woman, and it’s likely that readers are already aware that the books idealized prairie life and the fortitude of the pioneers. Rose was a successful journalist, novelist, and biographer (of Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford, and Herbert Hoover) by the time she began work on her mother’s story. She had a literary agent and strong publishing connections, but, as Woodside reiterates, although she was well-paid, she was always in debt. The Little House series, she believed, would fill her depleted bank account. The collaboration, however, exacerbated a difficult relationship. As Woodside portrays her, Rose was unhappy, often depressed, and envious of her mother’s increasing fame. The two, though, shared a hatred of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, looked for ways to avoid paying income taxes, and frequently extolled the virtues of capitalism.
A book for die-hard Little House fans.