Photo Credit: Getty Images: Bettmann/ Contributor
*This piece was originally published on February 15th, 2019
For nearly 100 years, the “” books (and the subsequent television series) have been cherished by kids and adults around the world. Millions of children have aspired to be like Laura Ingalls, a pioneer girl who courageously helped her family start new farms across the Midwest - planting, harvesting, hunting, and fighting blizzards.
The story of Ingalls’ family was based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but Wilder’s real childhood was much harsher. As a child, Wilder endured “an almost brutal lifestyle,” according to, a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer, and author of the book “ ”
On this week’s show, Fraser talks to us about how Wilder reinvented American history, recast her own life, and what the books - and controversy over them - has to teach us.
- According to Fraser, in the late 19th century, homesteading in the Midwest was often brutal. The unreliable weather made it hard for wheat to thrive. “The really grim reality of homesteading is something I think we've lost sight of,” says Fraser.
- Fraser believes there are two reasons why Wilder chose to leave out some of the darker aspects of her own personal story. The first is that Wilder wanted to make the books more accessible to children. The second, according to Fraser, is that Wilder believed that “a part of the job of these books [was] to portray a life where people just had to make the best of it.”
- Wilder started writing about her childhood for The Missouri Ruralist, a farm newspaper. Later, encouraged by her daughter, Wilder began writing the famous Little House books when she was about 60 years old. The books’ message of getting by with little money was inspirational to kids during the Great Depression.
- If you’re wondering how else the “Little House” books have changed America, according to Politico, .
- In 2018, Laura Ingalls Wilder's name was removed from an award given out by the American Library Association. Why? Read .
- Fraser we should still read “Little House on the Prairie,” even though it has “racist elements.”
- Interested in what the Ingalls family's farmhouse looked like? Check out the .