Not on your life.

Tonight, while plugging away at yet another assignment for my graduate classes, I took a few minutes to check email. There, among my Google alerts, I spotted a phrase that stopped me in my tracks, and I simply HAD to respond. The headline on the Huffington Post (and numerous other outlets that immediately picked it up as well) declared: “Laura Ingalls Wilder Would’ve Voted for Trump.”

While I can ignore a lot of wild claims and misguided mythology about my favorite Gilded Age American, I could not ignore this one. No. I had to respond, and quick. Accurately. With evidence culled from the better part of three decades of study. So I did. And here it is, published all over the ‘nets on HP, and numerous other websites that ran the original piece, as well as on FaceBook and Twitter. 

MY COMPLETE RESPONSE:

Not on your life. You cannot use dialogue and prose passages from Wilder’s fictional work–much of which was heavily edited by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who is now considered a “mother of modern Libertarianism,” but who had some ideas which were very different from her mother–to decide what Laura Ingalls Wilder thought about life and classes and myriad other topics.

Laura Ingalls Wilder tells us in her own non-fiction writing that she objected to harsh language (“Swearing is such a foolish habit” was the topic of one of her published “As a Farm Woman Thinks” columns at the Missouri Ruralist from 1911to the mid-1920s), and she certainly had a high regard for women as people, not as the objects our President Elect’s speech and behavior would indicate he perceives women to be.

While there was certainly race and class bias in Wilder’s work, and much of it is indeed racist by today’s standards, Wilder’s choice of “Indians” rather than “Native Americans” has everything to do with the fact that the term “Native American” was not in use in such context in the 1930s and 1940s when she was penning her novels. While I will not defend her sometimes racist language, I will point out that she often re-considered her own beliefs and set about to correct them when the need arose. In fact, when specific language in the opening paragraphs of her first novel, LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS, was questioned by a reader who objected to the implication of Indians not being counted as people, Wilder responded with an apology, (“of course they are people”), and directed the publisher to correct subsequent editions.

Further, as a farmer whose livelihood depended upon NOT being taken advantage of by commercial farming interests, she was much more likely to vote for a candidate who did not appear to be making inroads for bilionaire cronies. Wilder believed in self-sufficiency, yes. But she did not approve of greed and avarice, nor deception or malice. She was frugal, but she was also loving and generous to family and friends. She believed in honesty. She also believed in lifelong education, starting several clubs in her local area of Mansfield, Missouri, for the betterment of citizens through educational pursuits. She held several positions in her community, including Worthy Matron of her local chapter of the Eastern Star. She also was the very efficient and successful Treasurer for the Farm Loan Association, where she helped struggling farmers borrow the capital they needed to succeed in their farm endeavors. She is remembered for handling over one million dollars in loans over a decade of tenure and having not one case of default on any of the loans she originated. That hardly sounds like someone who would approve of Mr. Trump’s ruthless attitude, nor his habit of refusing to pay contractors for the work they completed in good faith.

Nowhere in the President-Elect’s speech or behavior do I see any evidence that he values such qualities that Laura Ingalls Wilder prized, and lived by.

There is other, overwhelming, evidence to support the idea that Wilder would decidedly NOT vote for Donald Trump. There is a wealth of well-researched, historically-contextualized biography and literary criticism that would shed light on the subject. You should read some of it. I recommend anything written by John E. Miller, Professor Emeritus of History at South Dakota State University, as your first reference. Miller and other scholars demonstrate that, while certainly human, and as such, naturally flawed, Wilder was someone who had integrity.

Having myself studied Wilder, her life and works, in great detail for over 25 years, I can say with confidence that Wilder would much prefer a dignified, rational, level-headed, experienced, and fiscally conservative candidate for any elected office. Several come to mind. Donald Trump doesn’t make it anywhere on that list.

Dakota Gatorade

Haymaker’s Punch, Switchel, or Ginger Water?Perhaps we of the 21st century would liken it to Gatorade, Dakota-Style. I’ve tried it many times in many recipes. It’s a startlingly pleasant yet curious concoction which some might call “an acquired taste.” 

Call it what you will, but here’s a little background on this go-to refreshment for hardworking farmers in the heat of summer. Just ignore the part of the article that tries to claim no one had ice.If the events in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s FARMER BOY are any indication, I think those “Wilder boys” would vehemently disagree: 


http://www.free-times.com/restaurants/switchel-up-your-summer-sips-052516

Mrs. Wilder has a Fair Time at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition: San Francisco, 1915

This Friday marks the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco, which opened 20 February 1915. Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder will recognize this as the fair which she attended while on an extended visit with her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was living in the Bay area at the time.

Laura’s explorations at the Fair were preserved in the form of many letters and postcards to her husband, Almanzo Wilder, who necessarily stayed home to mind the farm. These letters form the basis for a posthumously-published work, West From Home. Wilder also used her visit as fodder for a series of articles in The Missouri Ruralist, a farm journal for which she had been writing since 1911.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Panama-Pacific-fair-changed-San-Francisco-forever-6080573.php#/0

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I found this leather-bound reporter’s notebook, embossed with the PPIE logo, in an antiques store in Meredith, New Hampshire in 2010 for a mere $3.00. The notebook contains a small pencil-loop on the right side, and retains over half of its original blank paper. The exterior measures approximately 2″ wide x 3-1/4″ high and 3/8″ thick.

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Two blank souvenir postcards from the 1915 PPIE in San Francisco, located at a group antiques dealer shop in Concord, New Hampshire in 2014. The images featured are the Machinery Palace (top) and The Palace of Liberal Arts (bottom).

Remember your favorite museums on Giving Tuesday

It’s that time of year when everyone wants something, and, in turn, everyone feels obligated to buy, spend, acquire, wrap, send, deliver, bake, host, feed, comfort…WHEW! That’s a lot of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But, here’s an idea: in lieu of buying useless junk for the people in your life who already have whatever they could possibly need, keep it simple. Take the money you’d normally spend on joke gifts and ugly ties and, instead, donate some of it to your favorite places. Museums and charitable organizations that focus on the human experience are a fantastic place to start!

And, when you need a creative gift for someone who perhaps doesn’t get out much but loves exploring new places, why not offer a gift certificate or membership to a place you already love, and you just know they’d love too?

Museums in particular are often overlooked in charitable giving, but they are exactly the kind of institution where donors can see the good their dollars are doing. When you give to a museum, you see the new coat of paint or the upgraded security system or the climate-controlled display cases that your money helps to buy. But that’s not all. Museums give so much back to their patrons, in the form of unique experiences.

Museums offer respite from stressful daily routines, and provide a calm, go-at-your-own-pace learning environment. Museums allow the visitor to experience incredible art, ideas, and events from our collective past, and frequently offer a window to the potential of our collective future. Museums offer demonstrations of lost skills, and hands-on classes to explore your own artistic ability. Museums bring great thinkers and creators to a wide range of audiences who might otherwise never get the chance to ask a pointed question of an expert in their chosen field. Museums give everyone a chance to discover new things on their own terms and in their own time. But most of all, museums give us so much for so little of our hard-earned money. And they do it with a smile.

Think about it; where else but at a museum can you see priceless artifacts for a little pocket change? Or, in many cases, for free? Where else but in museums can you spend an entire day staring at the same object, painting, or manuscript without anyone disturbing your concentration? Where else can you spend the day or week contemplating the same re-constructed dinosaur or investigating the contents of an original homesteader shanty without anyone questioning your sanity?

You guessed it! At your favorite museum.

So why not take a little time today, on Giving Tuesday, to say thanks to all your favorite venues that welcome you all day, all season (or all year) for just the price of a latte or a single taxi fare?

Most of these beautiful repositories of history and art receive little if any grant funding, and no tax dollars at all. That’s right, NO TAXPAYER SUPPORT. Yet a lot of them let you in the doors for free, or almost free, admission. Most of the employees are working at or just a bit above minimum wage, yet a large percentage of them have a Master’s degree or PhD–or more! These are experts in their field, with a vast wealth of knowledge and skill, yet they work for virtual peanuts. And most museums are also heavily dependent upon the generosity and hard work (for no pay!) of volunteers and interns. Think about it: how much does it cost to have a nice meal out at your favorite restaurant? How much for that entrance fee for ONE DAY at Disney? Can you spare little for your favorite nerdy getaway?

Here are some suggestions:

Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association/ Almanzo Wilder Farm, Burke, NY:
http://www.almanzowilderfarm.com/join.htm

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, Walnut Grove, MN:
http://walnutgrove.org/store/page17.html

Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, Kansas:
http://littlehouseontheprairiemuseum.com/Little_House_on_the_Prairie_Museum/Support_LHOPM_This_Winter.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:
http://www.lauraingallswilder.us/membership/

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:
http://lauraingallspepin.com/a-special-message

Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum, Spring Valley, MN:
http://www.springvalleymnmuseum.org/wilderinfo.html

Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum, (aka Rocky Ridge Farm) Mansfield, MO:
http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:
http://www.discoverlaura.org/donation.html

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA:
http://www.osv.org
https://www.osv.org/donations

Genesee Country Village and Museum, Mumford, NY:
http://www.gcv.org
https://www.gcv.org/Support/Donations

The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE:
http://www.stuhrmuseum.org/give/annual-fund-drive/

Keystone Historical Society, Keystone, SD:
http://www.keystonehistory.com/contactus.html

Historical Society of Cheshire County, Keene, NH:
http://hsccnh.org/join-support/donate-now/

American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA:
http://www.americanantiquarian.org/support.htm

Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT:
https://www.marktwainhouse.org/support/support_us.php

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford, CT:
https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/support/

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, Concord, MA:
http://www.louisamayalcott.org/contribute.html

…Oh, and, let’s not forget the academic organization that honors every aspect of Laura, and brings us together every few years for the one and only LauraPalooza:
Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association (LIWLRA):
http://beyondlittlehouse.com/about-2/join/

…just to name a few. Feel free to add your suggestions, below!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for keeping the doors of your favorite institutions open with your generous contributions. Together, we can all help these happy places stay alive, and thrive!

 

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Visiting the Little House on the Prairie Museum, near Independence, Kansas, July 2011. 

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Burial Ground of some of the earliest Ingalls ancestors in America, at North Andover, Massachusetts, 2014. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

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My Dad inspired my love of history from an early age. This was a visit to Nova Scotia in the ’70s; my Mom was the photographer. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

 

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Almanzo’s parents helped establish this church in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Laura and Almanzo and Rose attended services here when they lived with his family in 1890. Photo copyright Dakota Yankee Research/Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder, LLC.

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Volunteers Jim & Marilyn Lusk have devoted numerous summer seasons donating their time, research, and labor to the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Malone, NY. They also enjoy portraying James and Angeline Wilder, Almanzo’s parents, at special Wilder Farm events. They are most certainly two of my favorite #MuseumVolunteersOfNote!

130 Years Ago Today: Almanzo Wilder’s Homestead Proof, 12 September 1884.

Here’s a little something pleasant for your perusal this fine, but chilly, September morning:

Almanzo James Wilder’s Homestead Proof, testimony dated exactly 130 years ago, 12 September 1884.

A.J. Sheldon, a nearby neighbor, sets his hand to testify on “our” A.J. Wilder’s behalf that, indeed, he is qualified, being a citizen of the U.S., over the age of 21, who has never made a previous homestead entry (at least, not to conclusion) and kept continuous residence on this section of land (NE 21-111-56), with a dwelling:

“about 12 ft. square, 2 doors, 3 windows. Stable. frame. Well of water. cellar. acres broken & cultivated. some trees. Value at least $300.00.”

You see, early this morning, I received a Google alert from New Zealand, which looked like this: http://foreignaffairs.co.nz/2014/09/12/homestead-testimony-of-almanzo-wilder/

Unfortunately, the link didn’t want to load all the images, so while the description was intact, the actual document was not in view.

But, with a little hunting and pecking, the National Archives record (National Archives Identifier: 595419) came up rather quickly, because I know you want to SEE it…with the original handwriting, syntax, capitalization, punctuation, and signatures intact…

http://research.archives.gov/description/595419

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Let’s note a few details, shall we?

Since the Homestead Act of 1862 required that the claimant remain in continuous residence for six months out of each year for five years, Sheldon’s purpose as witness to Wilder’s claim was to testify that Wilder had indeed fulfilled the various stipulations of the Act, prior to receiving his patent (deed) to the land. It was also required that the land be “improved,” i.e. cultivated, and that no evidence of precious minerals, oil, or the like, was present. The witness had to be someone living nearby to the claimant, so as to be a reliable authority on the claimant’s, er, claims. That witness also needed to swear his own statements were true, and that he did not hold a personal stake in the claimant’s success. Like Wilder, Sheldon also was a farmer, and one whose statements appear to be articulate as well as thoughtful. A reliable fellow for the task at hand, Sheldon supported all of the necessary requirements for Wilder. To wit:

Sheldon lists his own address as SW 10-111-56 (that is, SW quarter of Section 10, Township 111, Range 56), putting him within an easy distance of Wilder’s homestead. He states he is “well acquainted with Almanzo J Wilder, the claimant…“for about 5 yrs. he had taken his land at Yankton about 3 weeks before I met him.” 

He further attests Wilder “was temporarily absent at times working on the R.R. and visiting in Minn. not more than about 2 months at a time.”  

and:

“crops on (in?) past 4 years. breaking 5 yrs. acre(s) cultivated. about 20 acres of wheat this year. 1884.”

The best part?  Sheldon’s answer to the following:

“Question 10. Are you interested in this claim, and do you think the settler has acted in entire good faith in perfecting this entry?”  

“no. nor am I in any way related to claimant. think he has acted in good faith. AJ Sheldon”

A good neighbor. I’m sure Almanzo was relieved to get that little detail squared away. Because our man had some serious courting to get to! And, while we know that Miss Laura E. Ingalls would soon become Mrs. A.J. Wilder (“Bessie” as our man of the hour called her), I bet fellow researcher Nancy Cleaveland* could tell us all about helpful Mr. A. J. Sheldon’s own property, his place and family of origin, his own homestead, and what he did with the rest of his life. Probably, she has a photo of him somewhere, I reckon. Except, “I wouldn’t bet on a woman.” Wouldn’t be proper.

Finally, while that little house and its builder are both long gone, Kingsbury County still holds a great deal of charm for the visitor who revels in a hot Dakota summer. Here’s what the property looked like just a couple of years ago on a stunning Sunday afternoon:

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Nice warm thought on a not-so-warm morning. You’re welcome.

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*She’s reliably the most likely person to have researched him, simply because no one, and I mean no one, has spent more time squirreling out the nitty-gritty details of every soul who once settled in Kingsbury County. I say that with the utmost respect. NC is my research hero. And a generous friend, to boot.

Ignorance and Arrogance

I once had a debate with a classmate over William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. He said Innocence and Ignorance are exactly the same thing. I said they were nuanced and distinct from each other despite sharing similar features; that is, they are two separate states of being. Over at My Bright Spots blog, the writer poses the question of whether Ignorance and Arrogance are two sides of the same coin, or whether Arrogance is a “special” kind of Ignorance. I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder would say? Please read the reblog here, and a later entry will cite LIW’s thoughts on this intriguing question. Let me know your thoughts, too…

mybrightspots

We took our kids, aged 13, 10, and 5, backpacking in the Grand Canyon this past week. The older two carried backpacks with all their own personal gear plus some crew gear. Hal carried his sleeping bag, a few snacks, and a small bottle of water. It was my husband’s and my fourth trip into the Big Ditch, our kids’ first.

I have several blog posts planned about our trip, but for whatever reason, the inspiration to write has been migrating backwards from the end of the trip to the beginning. So while I have three posts ready to go, I can’t run them until I get the ones that belong before them written. Plus, I’ll be a guest blogger on another blog tomorrow – a first for me! – and I don’t want to break up the Grand Canyon series. So I’m holding off. Ironically, the guest post is…

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