Rose Wilder Lane

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Rose Wilder Lane (December 5, 1886October 30, 1968) was an American writer and the daughter of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Rose Wilder Lane was born in De Smet, Dakota Territory, the first (and only surviving) child of Laura Elizabeth Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder. Despite inheriting the pioneering spirit of her forebearers, she was quickly drawn away from a rural lifestyle and traveled much of the world during her lifetime. She became a well-known journalist, political theorist, world traveler and novelist. Her career as a writer began around 1910 and extended through the Vietnam War, during which she served as a war correspondent. She married salesman and occasional newspaperman Claire Gillette Lane in 1909, and they had one child, a boy, who died shortly after birth around 1910. She and her husband divorced in 1918. Lane never remarried, although she informally "adopted" and educated several young people throughout her life.

Despite being overshadowed by her mother's fame today, Lane's own accomplishments were remarkable. As a young child, she moved with her parents to Minnesota, Florida, back to South Dakota and eventually to Mansfield, Missouri, where her parents established a farm. By all accounts a brilliant student, she attended high schools in Mansfield and Crowley, Louisiana (where her father's sister Eliza Jane had settled), graduating in 1904. Her parents' financial situation put college out of the question. Taking matters into her own hands, Lane learned telegraphy at the Mansfield railroad station and, at seventeen, began working in Kansas City for Western Union as a telegrapher. She later became one of the first female real estate agents in California and by 1915 was a feature reporter on the staff of the San Francisco Bulletin. She wrote early biographies of Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Herbert Hoover and Jack London. During the 1920s and 1930s, her short stories and novels were often nominated for O. Henry Awards and other literary honors, she was frequently anthologized, and was regularly featured in leading publications such as Harper's, Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping and Ladies' Home Journal. Her work as a traveling war correspondent began with a stint with the Red Cross Publicity Bureau in post-WWI Europe and continued though 1965, when at the age of 78, she was reporting from Vietnam for Woman's Day Magazine, providing "a woman's point of view."

Controversy surrounds Lane's exact role in her mother's famous "Little House" series of books. Some argue that Wilder was an "untutored genius", relying on her daughter mainly for some early encouragement and established connections with publishers and literary agents. Others contend that Lane essentially took her mother's unpublishable rough drafts in hand and completely (and silently) transformed them into the series of books we know today. The truth most likely lies somewhere between these two positions — Wilder's writing career as a rural journalist and credible essayist began more than two decades before the "Little House" series, and Lane's formidable skills as an editor and sought-after ghostwriter are well-documented. The existing evidence (including ongoing correspondence between the women concerning the development of the series, Lane's extensive personal diaries and Wilder's draft manuscripts) tends to reveal an ongoing joint collaboration. The conclusion can be made that Wilder's strengths as a compelling storyteller and Lane's considerable skills in dramatic pacing, literary structure and characterication contributed to an occasionally tense, but remarkable collaboration between two talented women. In fact, the collaboration seems to have benefitted Lane's career as much as her mother's - two of her most commercially successful novels, "Let the Hurricane Roar" and "Free Land" were written at the same time as the "Little House" series, and basically retell Ingalls and Wilder family stories, but in an adult formal.

During the last 30 years of her life, Lane turned away from fiction writing and became one of the more influential American libertarians of the middle 20th century. She vehemently opposed the New Deal, creeping socialism and taxation, claiming she ceased writing highly-paid commercial fiction in the 1940s, in order to avoid paying income taxes. A staunch opponent of communism after seeing it in practice in the Soviet Union, she was the author of The Discovery of Freedom (1943), and tirelessly promoted and wrote about individual freedom, liberty and its impact on mankind. During the early 1960s, she contributed book reviews to the influential William Volker Fund. She was also the adoptive grandmother of Roger MacBride, the Libertarian Party's 1976 candidate for President of the United States.

Lane died in her sleep on October 30, 1968, just as she was about to depart on a three-year world tour.

"The longest lives are short; our work lasts longer". (Rose Wilder Lane)

Bibliography of Rose Wilder Lane

  • The Story of Art Smith (1915) (biography)
  • Henry Ford's Own Story (1917) (biography)
  • Diverging Roads (1919) (fiction)
  • White Shadows on the South Seas (with Frederick O'Brien) (1919) (non-fiction travel)
  • The Making of Herbert Hoover (1920) (biography)
  • The Peaks of Shala (1923) (non-fiction travel)
  • He Was A Man (1925) (fiction)
  • Hillbilly (1925) (fiction)
  • Cindy (1928) (fiction)
  • Let the Hurricane Roar (1932) (fiction)
  • Old Home Town (1935) (fiction)
  • Give Me Liberty AKA Credo (1936) (political history)
  • Free Land (1938) (fiction)
  • The Discovery of Freedom (1943) (political history)
  • "What Is This: The Gestapo?" (1943) (pamphlet)
  • On the Way Home (1962) (biography/autobiography)
  • The Woman's Day Book of American Needlework (1963)


SEE ALSO: The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane (http://www.umsystem.edu/upress/spring1995/holtz.htm), (1995), by William V. Holtz, University Missouri Press (ISBN 0-8262-1015-5)de:Rose Wilder Lane pl:Rose Wilder Lane

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