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.

Here She Comes…The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder!

All day today, LauraLand has been abuzz with news items, excerpts, and interviews with author/editor/LIW historian William Anderson‘s newest work, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper), which hits shelves tomorrow. I’m eagerly anticipating my copies from various sources (yay, interwebs, for making it possible to place orders at multiple non-profit museum shops even when the museums themselves are not yet open for the season!). Have you ordered yours yet?

Here’s Bill’s selection on the use of Laura’s work in the 1948 Japanese Re-education program, which he submitted to TIME Magazine:

Read a Moving Letter From Laura Ingalls Wilder on the ‘Things Worthwhile in Life’

And here is an interview with Bill, conducted by Caroline Fraser, and published today in Slate:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2016/03/the_selected_letters_of_laura_ingalls_wilder_interview_with_editor_william.html

Remember, one of the best ways to show your #LoveForLIW is to support the non-profit museums that preserve her legacy with archives and artifact collections. Your book-buying dollars go further when you spend at these sites, rather than purchasing at mega-marts and corporate conglomerates.

The always delightfully friendly and helpful Amy Ankrum, Director of Walnut Grove, Minnesota’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Tourist Center, was kind enough to take my order directly over the phone. When I spoke with her today, she said the books were due to arrive in the afternoon, and mine would go out in the late mail. If past experience is any judge, I can expect my copy will be in my hands before the week is out!

You can reach Amy and her very knowledgeable staff:

Toll-free phone: (800) 528-7280 (within the U.S.) or: (507) 859-2358

330 8th Street

Walnut Grove, MN 56180

email to:   lauramuseum@walnutgrove.org

Online Gift Shop: http://www.walnutgrove.org/store/

SELECTEDlettersLIW2016WTAcover

Other Laura museums to purchase from:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, DeSmet, SD:

(800) 880-3383 or (605)854-3383    or email to:    info@discoverlaura.org

103 Olivet Avenue

DeSmet, SD 57231

http://shop.discoverlaura.org/The-Selected-Letters-of-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-900.htm

~~

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum, Mansfield, MO:

(877) 924-7126     OPEN NOW! Season is 1 March to 15 November 2016.

3068 Highway A

Mansfield, MO 65704

http://www.lauraingallswilderhome.com/?post_type=product

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Little House on the Prairie Museum, Independence, KS:

(620) 289-4238   or email to:   Lhopmuseumks@gmail.com

2307 CR 3000

Independence, Kansas 67301

(Open 7 Days, April through September, Friday/Saturday/Sunday in October)

Donationshttps://secure.squarespace.com/commerce/donate?donatePageId=55d0cb2be4b0b18c963be80f

~~

Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum, Burr Oak, IA:

(563) 735-5916   or email to: museum@lauraingallswilder.us

3603 236th Avenue

Decorah, IA 52101

http://store.lauraingallswilder.us/t/museumlauraingallswilderus/books

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Pepin, WI:

(715) 513-6383 

306 3rd Street (State Hwy 35)

Pepin, WI 54759

http://lauraingallspepin.com/Websites/liwmuseum/images/Documents/Paver_form_rev2.pdf

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Almanzo Wilder Farm, Burke (Malone), NY:

(518) 483-1207   or email to:   farm@almanzowilderfarm.com

177 Stacy Road /PO Box 283

Burke, NY 12953

http://almanzosgeneralstore.com

~~

Spring Valley Methodist Church Museum (Wilder family site), Spring Valley, MN:

(507) 436-7659    or email to:   wilderinspringvalley@hotmail.com

221 W. Courtland Street

Spring Valley, MN 55975

http://www.springvalleymnmuseum.org/wilderlinks.html

 

2015-06-24 18.55.14

Little Bessie says: “Please support your favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder museum…or, in this case, ALMANZO Wilder museum!” (Almanzo’s bucolic birthplace at Burke, NY is also known as Almanzo Wilder Farm. And it’s also home to a bunch of Little Bessie’s friends…)

2012-07-16 16.49.58

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in DeSmet, SD, is also home to DeSmet’s First School, where Laura and Carrie attended during the now-legendary Hard Winter of 1880-1881.

2012-07-09 16.33.22

A setting of Laura’s Rosebud Chintz dinnerware on display at Burr Oak, IA.