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Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Perspective from 1932, the Year of Publication of Her First “Little House” Novel

During the past several years, increasing numbers of books and articles have appeared

By April of 1932, when Harper and Brothers released Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first children’s novel, Little House in the Big Woods, the United States was moving into the second year of the worst economic depression in its history. The year stands out-along with 1776, 1789, 1861, 1917, 1941, and 1968-as one of the most dramatic and significant in the nation’s history. Perhaps the most important single event was the nomination and subsequent election of New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States, after four years of a failed Hoover administration. While European nations succumbed to fascism and radical left?wing ideologies during the 1930s, the United States pursued a middle?of?the?road path that enabled it to muddle through the Depression, placing it in a position to rescue Europe and Asia from the threats of dictatorship and totalitarianism during World War II.

The publication of a children’s ily life on the post?Civil War frontier by an unknown author from the Missouri Ozarks certainly did not rank as one of the year’s more noted events. But over the course of the next eleven years, this largely self?taught author would pen-or, rather, pencil-seven more novels, setting aside a manuscript apparently aimed at a more mature audience that would later be published posthumously to complete her autobiographical series chronicling the life of the Ingalls family as it bounced around in Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Dakota Territory during the 1860s, ’70s, and ’80s. Continue reading