In 1932, a Missouri farm wife who wrote columns for a long vanished magazine, "The Missouri Ruralist", saw the publication of her first autobiographical novel, "Little House In The Big Woods". The book and the other eight in the Little House series are now classics.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo, lived on their Rocky Ridge Farm outside Mansfield, Missouri. Their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, had become a noted journalist and writer but when the market crashed in October, 1929. Rose returned to the farm and the family began to search for ways to make money.
By most accounts, it was Rose rather than Laura who came up with the idea that her mother should write down her childhood memories of pioneer life. Although it's often disputed who wrote the books, I believe that Laura did - but that she had editorial help from her daughter.
"Little House In The Big Woods", the first of what would become known as The Little House Books, was published in 1932 and sold for $2. Although the price seems high for the time and the economy, people wanted to read about life in the 1870's and beyond. Pioneer life, despite the many hardships, provided a diversion from bread lines and hard times. From 1932 to 1953, Wilder would write a total of 9 books in her series. The eighth book, "These Happy Golden Years" originally ended the series until she wrote one more - "The First Four Years" that depicted her early married life.
As a child, I delighted in Wilder's books, reading them and rereading them. I lived in St. Joseph, Missouri, a city with a rich history and a place where the past seemed to coexist with the present.
When I learned that I could claim pioneers in my family tree, I was delighted.
I found the pioneer era fascinating as a child and I imagine Wilder's books played a role in feeding that flame. One of my favorite childhood games was a version of the classic "playing house" that I called "Western Days."
In recent years, the books have come under fire for racist views. My personal opinion is that the books, like other classics written by authors including Mark Twain, must be viewed for what they are, a product of another time and place. And I think each reader must read and consider if the books have enough value to stand, despite the 19th century views. To me, they do.
Both Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband were born in February, Laura on February 7, 1867 and Almanzo on February 13, 1857.
The Little House books were a childhood favorite both for me and for my daughters. I sometimes still read them, noting details with an adult eye. Although Laura's childhood appears happy, it's obvious that times were often hard for the Ingalls and the Wilders.
This week, I remember Laura Ingalls Wilder for her writing and her imagination that captured an era for posterity.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is the community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published author and freelance writer.