One of my favorite women in history is author Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I’m celebrating her life this month by reading Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography edited by Pamela Smith Hill.
Laura began her writing career mid-life as a journalist, publishing short nonfiction columns in magazines and newspapers, such as the Missouri Ruralist. Her topics were ordinary for the time: raising chickens, household management, and food preparation. I imagine her work could easily be compared to today’s lifestyle blogger who writes about her free-range chickens, household improvements, and recipes she found on Pinterest.
It wasn’t until Laura was 63 years old and newly situated in her stone home (which her daughter Rose had built for her parents’ easier living during retirement), that she began writing her memoir, Pioneer Girl. Laura most likely was inspired to log her stories after the recent deaths of both her parents and her sister Mary. She wanted to preserve the stories of her childhood that were set in a unique period of American history, which encapsulated the life of a frontiersman, pioneer, farmer and townie.
Although Pioneer Girl was written primarily to her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, notes in the margins allude to Laura’s desire to share her story in a future publication with a wider audience. She wrote about life at home — not awesome Pinterest houses or uber cool tiny houses, but rather average, ordinary, humble houses — with her family: Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, Grace and Freddie (a brother who died in childhood who wasn’t included in the Little House series).
Amazingly her stories about the daily routines of life — harvesting vegetables from the garden, hunting, butchering, school days, bullies, culture clashes, clothing, friendships, courtship and marriage — continue to captivate us. The tight-knit Ingalls family’s quest for a home inspires us as we read how they faced adversity with courage, love, and hope.