Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks

Synopsis

Before Laura Ingalls Wilder found fame with her Little House books, she made a name for herself with short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers. Read today, these pieces offer insight into her development as a writer and depict farm life in the Ozarks--and also show us a different Laura Ingalls Wilder from the woman we have come to know.

This volume collects essays by Wilder that originally appeared in the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1924. Building on the initial compilation of these articles under the title Little House in the Ozarks, this revised edition marks a more comprehensive collection by adding forty-two additional Ruralist articles and restoring passages previously omitted from other articles.

Writing as "Mrs. A. J. Wilder" about modern life in the early twentieth-century Ozarks, Laura lends her advice to women of her generation on such timeless issues as how to be an equal partner with their husbands, how to support the new freedoms they'd won with the right to vote, and how to maintain important family values in their changing world. Yet she also discusses such practical matters as how to raise chickens, save time on household tasks, and set aside time to relax now and then.

New articles in this edition include "Making the Best of Things," "Economy in Egg Production," and "Spic, Span, and Beauty." "Magic in Plain Foods" reflects her cosmopolitanism and willingness to take advantage of new technologies, while "San Marino Is Small but Mighty" reveals her social-political philosophy and her interest in cooperation and community as well as in individualism and freedom. Mrs. Wilder was firmly committed to living in the present while finding much strength in the values of her past.

A substantial introduction by Stephen W. Hines places the essays in their biographical and historical context, showing how these pieces present Wilder's unique perspective on life and politics during the World War I era while commenting on the challenges of surviving and thriving in the rustic Ozark hill country. The former little girl from the little house was entering a new world and wrestling with such issues as motor cars and new "labor-saving" devices, but she still knew how to build a model small farm and how to get the most out of a dollar.

Together, these essays lend more insight into Wilder than do even her novels and show that, while technology may have improved since she wrote them, the key to the good life hasn't changed much in almost a century. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist distills the essence of her pioneer heritage and will delight fans of her later work as it sheds new light on a vanished era.

Excerpt

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the state of Kansas was finally closing its few remaining country schools. In the eastern part of the state, where I grew up on a dairy farm, the inefficiency of the old system gave rural schoolchildren only eight months of instruction while their town and city counterparts had the “advantage” of nine months of schooling. We country children thought we knew who had the best of it.

But, frankly, the school closings were long overdue. Town children had access to greater resources, better heated buildings, and teachers with their bachelor’s degrees already earned. Some of our teachers, and they tended not to last long in the one-room-school setting, were often still working to earn their primary degrees.

Our school “library” at Victory School, Junction 200, was pathetic. We had approximately four shelves of books, which extended only partially along the west side of our small room. They fitted under the windows that we were inclined to stare out whenever the teacher wasn’t looking.

Books were a salvation from ignorance and parochialism, but our choice of escapist literature was limited: stories about noble dogs and horses, a Bobbs-Merrill series on American heroes that read about the same from hero to hero, and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series of books. With little hesitation I gravitated toward these “girls’ books” on prairie life; they were a revelation to me, a widening of the narrow horizons of my youth.

In the Little House series, I found a family much like my own, with a strong father and mother and with children who mostly obeyed but who spent a great deal of time quarreling and competing with one another. They were a family who struggled against the elements of nature and misfortune, trying to make a more secure place for themselves in a challenging world. Yet they had an eternal constant in family love. From this love came the strength not only to meet life’s challenges but also to be invigorated by them.

So it was that I came to hold Laura Ingalls Wilder in high regard. Out the . . .

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