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tv   Laura Ingalls Wilder  CSPAN  December 3, 2020 9:09pm-10:32pm EST

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and now pulitzer prize winner caroline fraser discusses the life and novels of laura ingalls wilder. she explained the differences between actual events in the authors life, the little house on the prairie book series, and the television adaptation. the jefferson county, missouri library hosted this event. >> good evening, everybody. we are really thrilled to see you here tonight. this is the third and final program in this series. we kept miss fraser very busy for the last two days and we've had wonderful crowds turned out each time. we sold out of the books. it has been really very
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satisfying. to have c-span here taping this to show on television is just the icing on the cake. it's such a wonderful feeling to know that something so positive representing jefferson county will be on national television. my job tonight ... >> [applause] >> is to introduce the two people on the podium who will be conducting this conversation. jane henderson is the book editor at the st. louis post dispatch. she grew up in st. louis and graduated from the university of missouri at columbia with degrees in journalism and english literature. she cut short her work as a grad student in english to go to work as a copy editor for the st. louis globe democrat in the mid 1980s. after three years in the news room, she returned to st. louis and has been an editor and writer with the post dispatch features department for 30
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years. as a book editor, she science and edits book reviews, choosing from some 300 or so new books each week. she has written stories about book trends and interviewed many authors from salman rusty to yell docked row. tonight, she adds to that and she will be having a conversation with caroline frazier. >> caroline fraser is the editor of the library of america addition of laura ingalls wilder the little house books, and the author of three works of nonfiction. her latest book is where it fires, the american dreams of laura jane -- ingalls wilder. it was one of the new york times ten best books of the year. it won the 2018 pulitzer prize for biography. the national book critics circle award for biography. it also won the bio internationals 2018 plum top
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award. it was a finalist for the market clinton history prize given by the columbia university journalism school. caroline fraser has traveled the country for the past two years, giving talks on laura ingalls wilder, her daughter rosewater lane, and other related topics to groups large and small at schools, public libraries, conferences and universities. formerly on the steps of the new yorker, carolyn fraser's articles have also appeared in the new york review of books, the atlantic, the los angeles times book review and the london review of books, among other publications. she is also the author of god's perfect child, living and dying in the christian science church and re-wilding the world, dispatches from the conservation revolution. she was born in seattle, washington in 1979. she graduated from mercer island high school. in 1987, she received her ph.d.
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in english and american literature from harvard university. she lives with her husband in santa fe, new mexico. we would like you all to give her a warm welcome tonight. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] are you ready for us to go ahead? are you going to go ahead and talk? >> thank you very much for having me. thank you for asking me to talk to caroline frazier. this is really exciting. i think most of us probably read little house on the prairie books when we were young and maybe many others watched it on tv, which i did. i was getting to be a teenager at that time, so i sometimes was a little skeptical and i thought it was a little corny
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but we will get back to that later. how long have you researched and studied and why did you start studying laura ingalls wilder? >> well, i discovered the books as a kid as well and read them and loved them and thought they were fantastic and i think part of the reason that i really love them was because my grandmother, most of my grandparents, had been farmers in the midwest. they were all immigrants from mainly scandinavian places and came to minnesota, wisconsin and were farming in the late 1890s practice of the same places, same areas that laura angles had lived. so i think it was really fascinating to me to discover these books that told stories,
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that cast some light on what they must have gone through. and then, as an adult, i had an opportunity to review the first biography of laura ingalls wilder's daughter, who was, at one time, a pretty well-known journalist. in the 90, is a biographer of her appeared and it was quite a scandal, because it claimed that she was really the author. >> he was from the university of missouri. right? >> yes, he taught at the university of missouri. it created quite a sensation. there were lots of headlines like a little fraud on the prairie and i end up reviewing that book and that is when i started looking at her manuscripts and kind of
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thinking about what an interesting story that that was. >> her life? >> yes. >> i think a lot of his assertions about rose writing the books is actually in the appendix. right? do you think he set out to debunk? it or did he just somehow fall into that later? >> it was kind of an odd present taken in some ways. he seemed to have some real hostility towards laura as part of the story. he was very critical of her, and yet he didn't bring up this thing that was such a central part of the book. this book was called the ghost in the little house, until really the appendix, when he talks a little bit about it at the end. so it was a contentious kind of
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argument to make, and i ultimately came away from it feeling like there was a lot more to the story. it was more complicated than that, really. >> when you earned your ph.d., i'm not sure how many people at harvard were studying laura ingalls wilder, where they? >> i will tell you exactly how many. there were zero. and i didn't even think of it at that time. and i would never have proposed it, because it was not considered academic. >> but you kind of have made it academic in a way with your book because you do incorporate so much history into the story. >> i mean, i later came and had the opportunity to edit the new addition of the little house books addition for the library
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of america, and that entailed writing some notes on the text explaining what's certain historical events were for the reader. and as i was doing that, i began to realize that this stuff is really interesting to me. so i began to hope that it will be interesting to readers as well. >> how long did you study? what papers did you dig up? where did you find actual new information that had not been written about much before? >> scholars were starting to do related work. there is some fascinating papers, for example, about the family in kansas that i found. and there was another paper in a folklore journal about a
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discussion of the origins of this phrase that occurs repeatedly in little house on the prairie, this scurrilous phrase, the only good indian is a dead indian. that was in the news because of an event that is also mentioned in the book called the minnesota massacre. so there is a whole history just about that one phrase that was so fascinating in terms of how it was used politically to justify the treatment of indians. so it seemed like a rich history that really re-paid attention. >> some of the papers are in the herbert hoover library as well? are those rose's papers only?
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>> both. laura ingalls wilder's papers are in the herbert hoover library. >> it's unusual, but the reason that came about was because when rose began her writing career, and she really again as a journalist, she was writing these kinds of questionable biographies of people. and she wrote one of herbert hoover. so she was actually the first person to write a biography of hoover before he became president. >> and that was for adults? it wasn't for kids? >> yes. but it was actually fictionalized. after her death, her papers ended up at the hoover presidential library as well as
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others. >> isn't that interesting? so, what were some of the revelations that you found. obviously this book has won the pulitzer prize, people must have thought it was groundbreaking, the way you pulled it together, all this information and how it related to history. i assume that's why it won? >> i think that it was a combination of establishing the importance of wilder and her work to both her literary history but also our self image, the way we see ourselves as the descendants of people who crossed the great plains and were involved in the settlement of the country.
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i think people would be interested in the kinds of fantasies that we have created about our own past. we are sort of looking at, how true are those stories that we tell ourselves? we >> other people were telling that story before wilder, weren't they? >> sure, but i think her story has become one of the central ways that children absorb, especially white children, the ideas about manifest destiny, which is a concept that has been interrogated quite a bit. yet even still today, you hear politicians and other people kind of endorsing this idea
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that there was some grand plan for behind the whole idea of homesteading. >> and it has been known that some of our presidents and presidential candidates have been big fan hospital house on the prairie, so is that a subtle message on their part? or was that jest what they were interested in? >> i think you are speaking about ronald reagan who there was famously an anecdote about how he used to watch little house on the prairie in the white house. i think he knew michael landon, who of course was the star, producer, and director of the tv show. they were friends. and landon was a big rig and supporter. i doubt very much whether reagan himself had read the
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books or kind of had that sort of knowledge of the background of them. but i think there is maybe a bit of a message in that. it was considered to be wholesome. >> wholesome and hardworking. also kind of pulling yourself up by the boot straps. right? >> right, that whole notion. reagan famously said that he didn't support government. he said something famous about if somebody comes to you and says i am here from the government and i am here to help -- >> you should be suspicious? >> that is the worst thing that you can hear. >> yes. >> so there is kind of a colonel in the books of this
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slightly anti-government sentiment. >> i actually was not going to bring that up until a little later, but since we are talking about it, i remember reading an essay in the new yorker a few years ago, and the person i was talking about, the presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate, was sarah palin. she became associated with that. thurman seemed to want to point out that this idea that people are doing this all themselves and that laura angles wilder did it all herself was not entirely true, that she had had help, that the government had loaned them money to buy land, etc. i assume you have read that essay. how did you react to that? what is your interpretation of how much help or not from the
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government did the person get? >> it's actually quite clear that laura herself had a really contradictory reaction to the federal government, because for a time in the 19 twenties, she actually worked in a sense for the government. she was a lone officer. she was the secretary treasurer for the man's field missouri federal foreign loan program. so she helped farmers fill out paperwork and so forth to get these loans, which were beneficial for farmers. and she was very supportive of
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that program, but then when the new deal came along, she was very opposed to that. she was opposed to people taking assistance or aid from the government, as many people were. many farmers were. >> it was not an unusual attitude to have. was? it i remember my own mother was born in the 20s and was one of a family of ten. when i was growing up, i said to her why don't you like fdr or something, and she said because he made us feel pour. i said you were poor. during the depression, with ten kids in the family, you are pretty poor. but apparently, a lot of people did not like that. they didn't like to feel that or to feel like they would be told that. i don't know. >> it's kind of a baffling thing because i think laura and
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certainly rose loved this idea that they would have complete independence and autonomy, and they felt that farmers and people should not ever take things from the government. that was shameful, i think to them. and yet, when you look at the history of the family, they did except help. excepted help for mary, laura's older sister, who became blind as a teenager as a result of an illness. mary was ultimately sent to college in iowa which is a state program that paid for that. so they were willing to accept aid.
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i think she's the only member of the family was able to go to college. there was clearly flexibility in the original ingalls family. for some reason, i think that laura, possibly because she was ashamed of some of her own reliance on her daughter financially, developed a somewhat more rigid reaction. >> when did you start writing or talking about that? was it more in the twenties and thirties? >> it was really with the advent of fdr. you don't see laura talking so much about it before then. >> tell us about charles ingalls. he took advantage of the homestead act, right? >> yes. >> so what did that mean? how did that affect the family? >> the homestead act was one of
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the biggest government giveaways in history. the family was fine with that. so he began, i mean the homestead act is signed into law around 1862 by lincoln. he takes advantage of it first in minnesota, although they don't really develop a homestead there. it really becomes a factor in their lives when they move on to the dakota territory. i think it was, from the beginning, a real struggle for them because it involved breaking land, which cutting up the prairie with a breaking
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plow, which in itself is fiendishly difficult work to cut through all the routes and tear off the grasses on the prairie. i think by this time, he's an older ... >> how old was he about? >> i would have to look, but i think he was probably by that time in his late thirties. >> and he probably had been working. >> yes, he had been working like a dog all his life. so i think it really took it out of him. they were able to, you know, he wasn't really supporting the families with the homestead. he had to go into town and build houses and worked mainly as a carpenter in his later
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years. it shows you how tough that was. i think it was easier for big families who had a lot of sons and who could help out. >> right. he did not have any sons, right? oh, they had a boy. did he die? >> yes. laura's little brother, freddie, who was born right after the locusts wiped them out in minnesota and he died less than a year old. so there were no sons. mary had her disability and it was a really pretty tough life. >> were they expected to pay back the government or prove they land? make sure that it was producing or something before they could really keep it. what was that? >> the process of what they called proving up on the land
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took about five years. when you applied for a homestead, you filled out some paperwork and paid a small fee. you know, a few bucks. i think it was ten dollars for a while and that gradually went up. you did have to clear a certain number of acres and you had to build something. you had to build some kind of a house or a shanty or a solid house or something. you had to prove that was on the land. at the end of this process, at the end of five years, you had to get some friends or neighbors to help you fill out the paperwork and testify to this. you have to prove that you had done this. that had to be published in the local newspaper. that's why a lot of local
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newspapers were founded. it was to publish the paperwork. >> also probably to publish announcements, perhaps even from the government. >> sure. >> but to play devils advocate here, they are not getting anything really for free from the government because they are also doing the government a favor aren't they? by moving west and kind of helping clear out the indians and create a farm. >> yeah, although the utility of some of those farms is, and was questionable, because especially on the great plains in the dakotas, a lot of that land was not ideal for farming. especially what they call dry land farming, which was just going alone without irrigation. just relying on whatever mother
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nature provided. so that land was marginal for farming. and then the government actually knew that when it participated and sending people out there or allowing the railroads to send people out there. >> really? >> because the government scientists like john wesley powell basically told them this is better for grazing than it is for farming. you actually need a lot more of it to be successful. you need a lot more than the traditional 160 acres that the homestead act provided to make a go of it. but they did not pay any heed to that. >> so what was their motive in that do you think? >> i believe the motive was to help the railroad companies
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pursue their profits. >> really? okay. >> what about his -- what about paw though? he loves laura and laura loves him. we saw him on tv, but it sounds like he wasn't a very good provider. >> laura knew that. she admitted as much in a letter that she wrote to rose. she said something like, pa was no farmer. he was no businessman. he was a poet and a musician and i think she loved him for those qualities that were not that practical. she loved his term. he was a very affectionate and loving father. and he was, i think, a kind of very talented musician.
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i think his fiddle playing, his violent playing, was something that made their lives with playing, even during the darkest hours, which were pretty dark. so she came away from her relationship with him valuing him as a father, even though he had, and a lot of ways, failed as a provider. >> right. well, i mean, was that unusual, or did he have a very short attention span or something? i mean ... >> i think it was just kind of restlessness in one way. in one way he liked to be moving on. he had an itchy foot. he clearly disliked it when an area became too settled and
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overpopulated. he always wanted to keep going and moving on to the next place that was wilder. he loved to kind of wander by himself on these hunting forays. so i think it was just that he was not supremely dedicated to the domestic farming scene. >> what about his poor wife? was she doing the lion's share of the work at home? caroline sounds a little resigned. >> i think in some ways she was, but that was the common thing. bezos that was the lot of many women at the time. they would hold down the fort and royal, but i think she was a very patient, very accepting
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person and a lot of ways. and it seems that she did finally put her foot down when they got to this and basically said this far and no father. i think she did that in part for the children. she wanted them to receive some kind of education. >> how much education did laura give? >> for the time, she got a pretty good education. she left what was at that time high school to become a teacher herself. i think she always felt a little badly about that, but she was quite well read for a person of her age. >> how did she get books? was there a library there? >> they never had a library while she was there. she would write later in life to school children and talk
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about how wonderful it was, now that kids had access to libraries. but they had a few books and now they really value literature. i think charles angles, for the son of farmers, was a very illiterate man. he enjoyed reading, and so did caroline, and so i think reading it home was something that they did all the time, reading aloud. >> he was a bit of a storyteller as well, wasn't he? >> oh yes. and i think he would hear stories. there is the hardware story. he would sit around with house and get the news and loved to read newspapers. and he was a great storyteller. he also said once he had heard a tune played on the fiddle that he would always remember it and could reproduce it. >> how long did her parents
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live? when did they pass away? >> laura and her husband and daughter ended up leaving in 1894 to come to the ozarks in missouri after a number of misfortunes that they suffered. and that was actually the last time that laura would see her father until he was on his deathbed in 1902. >> so about eight years? >> yes. so she did not see him or be with him until the very end. and he died when he was 63. something like that. and caroline angles lived on for sometime in this match.
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mary lived together with caroline. and she died in 1924. >> that is before laura made it big? right? before laura published her first book? >> right, because laura doesn't really start writing the books until the thirties. she first writes an autobiography that was not published during her life, around 1930. >> a pioneer girl? is that it? >> yes, and it has recently been published that south dakota historical society. >> and it's well annotated. >> they put a lot of historical information in that. >> my other sisters -- they did not end up as well as the wilder family.
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they still had some struggles to the end. >> they were quite poor. carrie was a kind of enterprising young journalist for a while. she worked for some newspapers and ended up marrying a minor in the keystone area, and grace got married to a fellow not far away from their in a little town called manchester. but they were very poor. and grace had some health problems all her life. >> did laura ever give them money, do you think? >> it's unclear. i don't think that she ever help support them. i think in later years during the depression she may have given them some clothes or other things. but i don't think that she
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really financially felt the need to support them. >> how was laura's marriage to alonso? where they happy most of their life? he had his own sort of issues, it seems like. >> yes, they had a terrible time. right after they got married, they were heavily in debt. they lost all these crops and then they fell ill with diphtheria, which is very serious, no treatment for it at the time. and he suffered a stroke while he was recovering from the diphtheria, which would last, the effects of -- it >> he was young when he had the stroke, relatively young. >> he was a, young vital man, and after the stroke he had difficulty walking, really for the rest of his life. he could walk and he could work. he worked very hard, i think.
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but it was a real struggle physically for him. and he couldn't do the kind of hard labor that he had done. >> so they came to missouri and i think there was something about apples. it was the land of the big red apples. >> that's how the railroad advertised the ozarks, and especially the area where the wilder's ended up moving. and like all the railroad come on's, it was to some extent a bit of a fantasy. but in fact, there were orchards and so forth that were being established and that was actually one of the things that they did with their property outside of mans field, is to plant a lot of apple trees that were pretty successful for a while. i think a lot of that was wiped out during those years.
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>> we don't think of the ozarks, i certainly don't, as great farmland either. it's pretty rocky. >> it is. and you talk to people there now and almost all of them have stories about rock making. somebody would pay them 50 cents to go. so rocky ridge was the main farm, and i don't think it was ever hugely, i think they grew outs, they grew stuff for their livestock, they did have quite a lot of livestock. >> she was really proud of her chickens. >> yes, she was very skilled with poultry and developed all these ways to keep chickens productive and healthy. and that was a huge boon to them. and one of the ways that she
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began writing about four newspapers was poultry and how to be successful. she was very distressed that he was dismissive about what she made, the money that she made with the poultry. so she sat down and kind of added up all the money that she was making and proved to him -- >> that it was worthwhile? >> yes. so what paid the bills before she started the book sold? but paid the bills mostly? >> they had all kinds of a job. when they first went there, he was helping to deliver freight from the train depot, and they worked for an oil company. she did the books for the company. and they took in boarders. she had quite a little business doing that for a while.
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and then these various other things came along. she had the farm loan work. at that same time, she was also starting to write newspapers. she wrote for the missouri royalist. a very well-known and well respected farm newspaper. that's really where she kind of served her apprenticeship as a writer and started writing about her family. running that her father, her sister, mary. >> people always like family stories, in general, but how did you get that job? do you know? do we know how she started? >> yeah, well she and rose sort of came up together. they had this famous trip. laura took a trip in 1915 to visit her daughter rose who, at that time was living in san francisco. she married this near dwell guy
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was in san francisco. san francisco was a kind of hotbed of yellow journalism at the time. so there were a lot of papers. they were publishing a lot. she started working on one of the women's pages of the san francisco bulletin. there's some nonfiction there was actually fiction. at the same time she's telling her mother you could make so much more money running for a newspaper than you can with chickens. and so stop doing that. >> that's still the case. >> that's how they got into it. laura kind of apprenticed herself to her daughter for a while and then she was on her way.
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the realist gig was quite a lucky break for her because they really valued her. she was sort of their woman columnist for a long time. >> do we know how much she was paid for those? >> i don't think we do, no. >> well, do you want to talk more about rose because rose is a character and she contributes quite a bit in the book, but she also sounds a little on steady to me. a little moody at the very least. >> yeah. rose had a hard life in some ways. from a young child, she had a lot of trauma in her life because of all those things that happened. you know, her parents illness, her father's disability, they lost another child that she did not even remember for a long
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time. and then the house burned down, a home they had built for his wife. so i think a lot of that left her with all of these sort of confused feelings of responsibility. so as an adult, we can kind of see all of this trauma playing out in her life. she certainly did get severely depressed at various periods. well sometimes even suicidal. she seemed to suffer a lot. her relationship with her mother was rocky as well. >> they had a lot of back and forth. but they must have also sort of supported each other because she got her mother -- didn't she helped send her mother's first manuscript to a publisher and sort of coached her through what to do?
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>> oh yeah, i often say that i don't think we would not have the little house books if it were not furrows. rose had a lot of experience as a writer. she had a lot of polish and professionalism. she knew publishing people. she knew a lot of editors in new york. she knew editors at magazines. so she was really kind of the driving force pushing her mother to take advantage of these memories. she had been hearing about these stories about the pioneering days all her life, and she knew that there was some money to be made off of that. there was a real market for that. >> and possibly, i don't know, the fact that the country was becoming more modern made people nostalgic and interested in these older stories i assume. >> oh, definitely.
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you can really see that sort of taking in during the depression. these stories and farmer boy, for example, were obviously really appealing to a public that doesn't know where their next meal is coming from. these stories about wonderful farms and these amazing meals. counts of eating pie for breakfast. it was just this wonderful nostalgia for a time of plenty during a time when people were desperate. >> so, obviously these books took a little bit of liberty with history, right? but so did the tv series, probably even more, and not
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that we should look tv series for our history lessons, but a lot of people watch that show. so they probably got a idea that this was how it was. so what are the things you think it got wrong? >> the deviation? more or less everything. >> really? >> i think that the tv show was so made up. if you look at it now, it really was more about the 1970s then it was about the 1870s. and this was true about almost everything coming out of hollywood. it wasn't like that was unusual. westerns and so forth are notoriously fantasies of what life was supposed to be like. but yeah, the way charles
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ingalls was portrayed for example by michael landon. i have a picture in my slideshow of michael landing with his shirt off and his chest shaved. >> that wasn't pa right? >> that probably wasn't happening a lot on the prairie i'm thinking. i could give you 1 million examples. >> yeah, i think you also wrote that they did not wear shoes to walk around or go to town or go to school. right? but michael landed didn't want them to ... [inaudible] michael landon did really emphasize the success of the family. his kids did wear shoes and they had toys that the real ingalls girls i think coveted and would have loved to have had, but did not have. >> right. i don't remember every detail
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of the tv series, but how did it show the indians and how did that compare to how the indians were portrayed in the books? i mean there are some mixed sort of messages there it seems. >> yeah, i mean i'm aware of just a handful of instances, especially one episode of the tv show that showed but was meant to be in indian boy and rose's interaction with him. i think these were, again, just ideas of michael landon, who apparently also repurposed a lot of bonanza episodes. [laughs] >> didi? >> yes. i don't think really it had anything to do with historical reality, or even with wilder's
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own memories that come through so strongly in a little house on the prairie. she called it her indian country novel. it does portray a number of encounters and her family had with indians in kansas. which are, today when we read them, are problematic. there is a certain amount of racist language and attitudes on display in that novel. >> it's not laura necessarily who shows those is it? i mean her mother is quite afraid of indians. >> her mother certainly is, and a number of times, when she uses this inflammatory language, it's given to another character. it's not something laura is saying or her father is saying.
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in fact, her father disagrees with it vocally. but i think nonetheless, there are attitudes and expressions of how people see and interpret indians and indian behavior that would never be published today. >> no. >> and so it's interesting to look at that novel as an expression of that time. i think it remains one of her most important novels, but i do think you have to understand it, and the historical context. >> it's really a page turner, i think. there is always stuff happening, wars, indians, a lot of stuff. but as you know, the american library association a couple years ago renamed what was the
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laura ingalls wilder award, in part because of this concern over the portrayal of the indians. right? how do you feel about that? do you feel that was necessary? >> i think it was necessary for them, because that's what they decided to do. and i understand why they ended it. they were the institution that developed the award. they owned it. they had the right to change the name of it. but they did not withdraw. it they did not withdraw from wilder herself, who was the first recipient of it, and they made a very public statement saying that they hope children and adults would continue to read the books. so it was not intended as an act of censorship. but i think the general public somehow interpreted it, at
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least in some corridors, as that. which i think is too bad. because i don't think that was the intent. >> they still have a theodore guys all award, right? theodore guys ole was more explicitly antisemitic, i think, than laura was in her novels. >> yes, he in fact published during the period of the second world war a number of racist images. so, it is complicated. and i think they have a different set of problems with that award based on how it was set up. i don't know the full story behind that, but i think there are some complications involved with that. but as far as wilder is
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concerned, it had been something they had been discussing for years. i know librarians had been concerned about, it because there had been children in communities in south dakota and other states, in the plains and the west, who had actually come home from school in tears because they had been reading little house on the prairie and read these inflammatory things. so i think it was a recognition that some of the books have become -- their portrayal of indians is complex and disturbing and that has to be acknowledged. there needs to be a context provided for these books, if they are going to continue to be taught in schools.
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>> how does that compare to, say, other sort of classic children's books? i mean, many of them, would every one of them pass the sort of test of being -- >> surely not. there have been many instances of this. there is a kindergarten teacher that taught first grade, and i remember her distress when she had to stop reading little black sambro to kids. this is something that has been happening, that people reevaluate classics all the time. they begin to either withdraw them from young children. i think the issue is children. it is particularly notable and disturbing when it's children
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who are the audience for these works. and i think that for adults, it's a totally different situation. people are still reading and discussing huckleberry thin, for example. literature courses. but those are adults. so it's a different set of standards. >> hopefully, they have more knowledge to put things in context, i would assume. would you have them maybe at it or change anything now in the little house books that go away? >> no, i am never a fan. and i don't think it's necessary. i don't think it solves the problem. i think we just need to either
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reconsider who is reading the books and what age they are when they read the books and provide context. i am not an educator. i'm not somebody who has those kinds of skills, but i just think it's an issue with all of literature from previous periods. >> by the way, i think when my children were young, there was a picture book that came out that was like little black sambro. it was not called that and it had little illustrations that were more respectful. and it was a darling little book. i read it to my daughter a lot. i cannot remember the name of it is now. but they called him something slightly different, but i think it was based on that. it just had not been re-illustrated so that it told
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the story more respectfully. anyway, it's probably about time for other people to think of some questions. there are microphones over here, and you will have to get up to go to them because they don't roam around the room. would anyone else like to ask caroline frazier a question? >> hello? hello? this is an easy one. do you have a favorite novel by laura ingalls wilder? if so, which one, and why? >> okay, yes. i have always really loved the long winter, which is her novel about the families survival of this hellacious winter at 1880 through 1881.
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and it describes how the ingalls family was basically kind of trapped in their house for months at a time. the food dwindled and they were down to their last sack of potatoes when this young man named wilder with another fellow in town made a kind of desperate journey to get seaweed from a farmer outside of town and they risk their lives to go find that. and this all happened. and it is beautifully written. it's an extraordinary survival tale, and it's just very of octave of the kind of terror and numbness that overtakes you
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when you are subjected to these kinds of conditions. and then it all comes right with the end through this act of heroism by the man she eventually marries. so it is a wonderful novel. >> were they happy for the rest of their lives do you think? >> right, yes. i do think that they were. i think their marriage was difficult in the ways that many marriages are. they had sometimes real power struggles. laura was a really forceful person. she had a hot temper. she would often fly off the handle and she was quite quick to anger. she knew this about herself and sort of regretted it. and yet, he was very patient with her and i think he would
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say later in life that he knew that about her when he married her. and i think that he admired her kind of fire, fiery personality, and i do think that they loved each other deeply. i don't think it was always easy, though, for them. >> do you have a favorite little house site? some people go on little pilgrimages two different locations. do you have a favorite? >> yeah. there's something wonderful in all of them. but one of my favorites is plum creek. the town of walnut grove is quite interesting and it's self. there's a lot there. but there is an area where the family dugout was, right next to plum creek. and you can still see the depression in the earth where the dugout must have collapsed.
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and it's such a lovely place. >> the owners of it have really kind of preserved it. so you can kind of see the views that they must have seen and taken a little bit of the lay of the land. and it is just a beautiful little spot. >> what do you think -- oh. go ahead. >> could you talk a bit about lori's relationship with her sister, mary? >> sure. that was a critical part of her life. they obviously, the two sisters, marianne and laura, had a real kind of competition. they were very competitive with each other. and mary tended to be, when they were younger, much more pious and a bit prim, which was
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something that laura always resented. and i think this was true. i think this was true between them. and then when mary fell ill and nearly died and then became blind, laura was then really kind of forced into this role that she had never contemplated for herself, which was to become a teacher. that's what mary had been intending to do, and her parents had always hoped that mary would teach and be able to make a little money that way. so it was huge. i think it was a huge shock for laura that she then had to step into those shoes and it showed her that she really could do something that she didn't want to do. she was never comfortable doing that so young.
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yet she did do it. she forced herself to do it. and it was really hard. she had to step up in front of kids who are bigger than she was. >> she was a small person. wasn't she just under five feet? >> just around five feet. >> i think that relationship stayed with her for the rest of her life. they were separated for most of their adult lives. and i think that even some of those little childhood resentments stayed with her as well. she would describe those with such feeling later in life, that it was clear that it created her love of fairness
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and her intolerance of injustice. she was very quick to be angry about things that she felt were and injustice. i think that came from her competition with mary. >> i have really enjoyed your top so far. i just have a couple questions but i will do one. i know you got into researching. how did you do? it most people read books and love them and don't go as far as you have where you research these people for years. what led you into doing what you've done? >> to me, the historical background of the ingalls lives was really fascinating. the more i got into that, the more i wanted to find out. it was almost like putting together a puzzle or something. there were all these kinds of missing pieces that i wanted to find the answers to.
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so i think that was a big part of it. you had also mentioned earlier that no one at harvard would have studied something like this, yet i did feel it was important that these books really deserved attention and analysis and explication in a way that they hadn't. not that there are not lots of fans. there is lots of really dedicated fans and amateur historians and people who have studied the books. and they have contributed an enormous amount as well. so i want to give them credit as well. but i really felt like it was a subject that the general public would respond to.
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and the attention would be repaid with new fans, hopefully. i think it is fine to not be a fan of the little house books as well. lots of people don't like them, which i completely understand. and i think that's totally legitimate. i think there are more important. i think they have helped shape ideas about homesteading and about our history with farming and stuff that we need to know more about. >> did you have another question? >> i will ask as this man comes up. how does it make you feel knowing your book is as big as it is? how does it make an author feel knowing that this book is like huge out there?
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>> it's enormously gratifying to get a response to our work. of course, most writers, and i have certainly spent a lot a years in a room not talking to anybody just working. so it's wonderful to have readers and to meet readers and to hear their responses and their enthusiasm for the topic. >> were you surprised when you won the pulitzer? >> i was shocked. i was deeply, deeply shocked, very surprised. >> questions? >> yes, i read that charles angles's lineage stopped with rose when she passed away. did rose not have any children?
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or grace, or the other sister? >> no, carrie had a couple of her men. she had no children of her own. mary had no children. grace had no children. rose, likewise, did not have any surviving children. rose did have a kind of habit later in her life of sort of casually adopting, and she adopted several young people in a kind of temporary way. and one of those people eventually became the inheritor of the estate, a fellow named roger mcbride who she met when he was the 14-year-old son of her editor at readers digest. and he became her adopted
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grandson, and inherited the estate when she died. >> i have a comment and a question, and my favorite poem is the long winter, and my view is colored now, having read about that lazy couple that lived with them during the long winter. the other thing, whenever i read those books, and i still do, i always wondered, i knew that laura was born right after the civil war, and it was never mentioned. apparently charles never fought in the war. it seems to me from the book, was it when the draft came that he just sort of disappeared for a year? >> that's a very interesting period. i think it remains an unanswered question why he did not serve.
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there was some history there. charles and caroline ingalls married in 1860. she had a brother who died in the war. and it may have been, and i am just speculating here, but she might have discouraged his participation, but yes. they do kind of drop off the map briefly around that time and then turn up in wisconsin. and that was an area where a lot of men were in wisconsin and kind of drifting off into the lumber camps and so forth in the northern part of the state to potentially avoid the
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draft, which was quite contentious and wisconsin. although i think the state of wisconsin ended up sending more men to fight in the war than almost any other state. so, you know, it's tantalizing and interesting to think about what that might have been like and why not of the angles boys except the two youngest to ended up volunteering very late in the war, why none of them served. >> it's very interesting. in man's field, this roger mcbride, he kind of took over royalties, or whatever, of some of the little house books, and it was not the man's field public library that was supposed to get them later, but
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they never did? they got a lump settlement? >> right. laura as will did leave the right county library, i believe it was, the proceeds for the royalties. she left them all to rose four rows's lifetime. once rose had died, it was supposed to go to the library, and he engaged in some legal machinations to prevent that from happening. so after he died, and there was a bit of a reckoning and a lawsuit was filed by the library and they did get a settlement for a fairly substantial some. so yes, it was a little shady. >> question? >> i am sorry because i am not
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american. but little house on the probe, the tv series kept a benchmark in our country. i was a big fan, so when i was a teenager, can i read something? i think a majority of the people in here are a big fan of you. can we take a photograph at the end of this event? >> he would like your photograph. >> i would be happy to. >> that is really cute. do we have any other questions? i could keep asking questions all night long, but if you don't know, -- here is someone. >> you kind of mentioned this
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at the beginning about the possibility that arose really was the author of the books. i read the annotated bibliography. it took me forever, but i read it. and when you read that, you can see where she said things to rows and rows would send them back saying do this, do this, do this. so it was more like rose was her editor than the author. to me, it will always be laura ingalls wilder's bucks. >> yes, they definitely had a collaboration. that's why people often call it. i think it was kind of a mother daughter writer editor collaboration. but rose contributed a lot and clearly edited more heavily than a standard editor in new york might have done at this
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time so it's worth studying and talking about and i don't think we are done with that even today and there are certain stages of the manuscript that appear to be missing. so it really does show you a lot of the process of what remains. i think it is clear that laura did produce the raw material and rose brought a lot to it in the editing. can you compare the writing in her foreign columns with the writing in her novels and tell if there is any substantial difference? >> there are some really interesting moments and the
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farming columns, and also in the speech that she delivered about her work, which was entirely her that. roads did not contribute to it at all. she gave the speech at the detroit book fair about why she had written the books and she was only halfway through at that point. i think you can tell that she had her own style which was very different than roses. she had a very not melodramatic, factual, kind of affecting tone, whereas rose's contributions are often more kind of hyper juvenile. >> more mellow dramatic. >> and more polished sometimes. so it is possible to discern the different voices, and i think that a lot of wet makes
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the little house books unique is laura's voice and her perceptions and her memories of what she saw and experienced. >> i have to completely unrelated questions. the first is, the books are somewhat fictionalized. how much would you say is history and how much is fiction? >> i think what's in the books is often very factual and factually accurate. laura really cared about getting things right and described things quite accurately. for example, the played in plum creek, on the banks. a very accurate description. what's she left out was what
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happened to the family after that event. the period of kind of financial collapse and homelessness and drifting around. so a lot of how she is changing her story is leaving things out that she did not want to write about, that she thought were not appropriate for children. >> the second question regarding her estate. is any part of her state used to maintain the various sites like plum creek and mansfield? >> not directly to my knowledge. i know roger mcbride did give generously to some of the sites, including mansfield. i think he was instrumental in helping them set up a museum
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and i think he also contributed items from his, you know, from rose's possessions to this math. i know they have some of her furniture. i don't know whether he set up any kind of permanent request, but i know that he did give them money. i think many of them, though, struggled for funding. and it is too bad that there is not a kind of national support for those sites, because mike a lot of literary sites, they really do need help. >> didn't mansfield have plans to build another building or something?
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they did. >> it was a couple of years ago. they have a new museum now. >> any other questions? >> we will just wrap it up then. thank you all for coming. let's give a round of applause. [applause]
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