Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Fifty years after the publication of Laura Ingalls Wilder's first book, Little House in the Big Woods, that volume and ten succeeding volumes of the author's writings, are American classics. The "Little House" books have been read, re-read, translated, adapted, admired and worshipped by multitudes world-wide. Of Wilder's books, which portray frontier existence during the last great American Expansionist era, "it is safe to say that they have given a notion of what pioneer life was like to far more Americans than ever heard of Frederick Jackson Turner. Laura Ingalls Wilder's fame and the success of her books have been spiraling phenomenons in American publishing history. In 1953, 500,000 of the "Little House" books had· been printed; by 1959, the quantity had nearly doubled, and in 1976, it was estimated that 20,000,000 of Wilder's books had been published. In lists of American best-sellers of the twentieth century, the "Little House" books are included. The mystique of Laura Ingalls Wilder has spread into far-flung areas. Her appeal is global. First translated by the United States State Department as a post-World War II re-education program for Germany and Japan, the "Little House" books are now printed in approximately forty some of Wilder's supporters. The well-meaning preservation of Wilder's public image denied her miraculous and admirable evolution as a writer, and created certain falsifications that surely would have amused, if not amazed, Laura Ingalls Wilder herself. Curiously, among those who most stridently denied Wilder's multi-faceted metamorphosis from capable country woman to talented writer, was the individual who had most shaped and aided the emergence of Laura Ingalls Wilder as an author. All her lifetime, Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane, contributed to a composite image of her mother that, while wholly admirable, was not fully accurate. Historical evidence has periodically suggested discrepancies between the "Little House" books and recorded facts. None is major and none diminishes the essence of truth and reality which shines from the pages of Wilder's books.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University