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Little House series: book vs reality


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I love this thread so much. I'm learning a bit more, so here's some additional info to contribute:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/5365515/Const ... lls-Wilder

Feminist review of the series from 1997. Laura was going to feature Cousin Charley again in By the Shores of Silver Lake where he tries to kiss her and she brandishes a knife, but Rose disagreed with the scene and had it removed. Laura wrote to her daughter that she didn't want girls to think it's acceptable to be manhandled.

It explored her relationship with Almanzo, or at least how it was portrayed in the books. When you consider how hard life for her mother was, Charley trying to kiss her, her mother protecting the girls from rape, and Mrs. Brewster's coldness and attempt on her husband- it explains why Laura rejected Almanzo's first attempt at physical affection. (The scene in the buggy where he puts his arm around her, she is uncomfortable and tries to shrug his arm off, he ignores her, and she startles the horses to get him to knock it off.) I also like how the early conversations of their engagement are different from These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years. In TFFY, she flat out tells him that she doesn't want to be a farmer's wife and they compromise. Almanzo will try to farm for three years, with a fourth year of grace.

I don't remember what Little House forum I read it on, but I think I read that Laura wasn't fond of sex, and Rose, on the other, married Lane because she wanted a sexual relationship. Given what Laura probably saw with her mother raising several children in poverty and the death of both her brother and son, I wouldn't be surprised if she was opposed to sex or penetrative sex. I think Rose had a child that died young as well. All I remember about her is that she later mentored Roger Lea McBride and he inherited her estate and helped to create the tv series and the Rose spinoff book series.

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Thanks for this, I've read very little of these writings.

Some of those columns are very interesting. Thanks, SamuraiKatz!

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I just want to thank all y'all for this thread. I was just pining away for something to read- now I have a slew of books on hold at the library.

And I can't wait to read her journals when they're published next year!!

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I love this thread so much. I'm learning a bit more, so here's some additional info to contribute:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/5365515/Const ... lls-Wilder

Feminist review of the series from 1997. Laura was going to feature Cousin Charley again in By the Shores of Silver Lake where he tries to kiss her and she brandishes a knife, but Rose disagreed with the scene and had it removed. Laura wrote to her daughter that she didn't want girls to think it's acceptable to be manhandled.

It explored her relationship with Almanzo, or at least how it was portrayed in the books. When you consider how hard life for her mother was, Charley trying to kiss her, her mother protecting the girls from rape, and Mrs. Brewster's coldness and attempt on her husband- it explains why Laura rejected Almanzo's first attempt at physical affection. (The scene in the buggy where he puts his arm around her, she is uncomfortable and tries to shrug his arm off, he ignores her, and she startles the horses to get him to knock it off.) I also like how the early conversations of their engagement are different from These Happy Golden Years and The First Four Years. In TFFY, she flat out tells him that she doesn't want to be a farmer's wife and they compromise. Almanzo will try to farm for three years, with a fourth year of grace.

I don't remember what Little House forum I read it on, but I think I read that Laura wasn't fond of sex, and Rose, on the other, married Lane because she wanted a sexual relationship. Given what Laura probably saw with her mother raising several children in poverty and the death of both her brother and son, I wouldn't be surprised if she was opposed to sex or penetrative sex. I think Rose had a child that died young as well. All I remember about her is that she later mentored Roger Lea McBride and he inherited her estate and helped to create the tv series and the Rose spinoff book series.

This link is AWESOME! I'm going to see if it will download to my kindle.

Thanks!

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I don't know, but Rose Wilder Lane grew up to become a prominent libertarian who opposed the New Deal. So despite the poverty her family endured, she didn't see government programs/aid as the answer.

Yes, she did - and I think she therefore had some political objectives she allowed to color the rewriting of the text, quite frankly. If you read the actual histories people have made of the Ingalls family, you realize they are FAR more dependent on those around them than the books would have you believe.

I mean, reading those books, you'd think that all families were utterly on their own, that they had no choice but to be alone in the wilderness. There are a few hints of "oh, back East..." but not much else.

Meanwhile, if you look at magazines of the time, newspapers of the time, or similar from other countries even, you see stuff was far more... civilized and intertwined than those books sometimes make out. I mean, Laura was born in 1867. Well, the University of Illinois was founded that same year, and if you look in the histories of that, and the reports of people involved and early classes and all the rest, the history of my own town (founded 1833) it just seems FAR more "normal" than what is portrayed in the Little House books. Heck the Meiji Restoration was only one year later!

Regarding Mary....the state of Iowa paid her tuition to the College for the Blind as S. Dakota had no school. That was left out as Rose did not want to expose the acceptance of assistance. (From The Ghost in the Little House ")

Exactly. That sort of thing is left out because there's an agenda.

I don't think that agenda is a FUNDIE agenda, no, and the books do talk about hardship - they just really gloss over how "settled" the areas they lived in really were, and that there was civic life and government involvement going on.

1) How TINY the clothes were. Mature Ma was the size of your average 12 year old nowadays.

I felt the same visiting Mt. Vernon as a kid, also various similar-timed Japanese historical sites too - as a species, we do better physically when we have better diets. In the transition period, also, a lot of the "but people from [wherever] are so small, just naturally" has to do with diet differences too, I think.

Do the fundies that wax fondly over these books realize they can indeed go out and live this life with their kids? Grab an ax and live out in a hand sewn soddy with nothing but turnips and potatoes and lard to eat for a winter. Then berate yourself for not being joyful of your Biblical role...

I think a lot of them don't, because they buy into the weird setup of the books that encourages the reader to think that the family's experience was "normal" for the time.

In reality, there's no reason that the Ingalls family had to live like that either - there were plenty of towns, and urban people, living comfortable lives for the time, which might seem a pain in the ass by our 2012 standards but were not as deprived as the Ingalls were living it. They chose to do the frontier thing, and then the books emphasize the "bootstrappy" aspects of that to an extent that they seem more isolated than they actually were.

I loved those books myself, I won't deny it, but later found out just why they're shelved in the "fiction" section.

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I love this thread so much. I'm learning a bit more, so here's some additional info to contribute:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/5365515/Const ... lls-Wilder

And thank you for this link. I've just sat here reading the foreword and will probably be up half the night devouring the rest of it. :lol:

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Also, I have been sucked into a youtube little house television show vortex and I cannot escape from all the feathered hair and Pa's ceaseless meddling. This show is so incredibly fucked up, I had no idea. I could snark for hours about how saccharine and traumatizing Michael Landon's (and his 40 pounds of hair) favorite plot devices were. So many orphans! So many people going blind! Death by fire! Rape by mime! (WTF??) Pa is alternately psychotherapist, physiotherapist, substitute preacher and all-around town scold. It's delightful and I can't stop watching.

Oh I have BEEN down that vortex!!!

Enjoyable, but... yeah :D

I had the books as a kid (translated versions the first time) and loved them to death, then later found out about the TV show, and while the first season or two are kiiiiiinda sorta maybe similar to the books, after that it diverges wildly.

At some point Shannen Doherty is in the show, as one of the orphans adopted when the original kids age out (I know there's a TV Tropes about this but I'm not going there because I need to sleep tonight).

Still, probably one of the best gifts I ever got as a kid was a sunbonnet sewed by the grandmother of one of my friends when I was in school in the US for a year (that friend was a "Little House" fan too and at 7 or 8 we were OBSESSED). Loved that thing. To. Death.

But yeah so there's the TV show, which takes crazy lolwut liberties with the books, but then the books also are fiction. (Just better fiction!)

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And thank you for this link. I've just sat here reading the foreword and will probably be up half the night devouring the rest of it. :lol:

Me too!

IIRC, Laura was only 4'11" and Carrie was even smaller. Don't remember how tall Grace or Mary were, but they were definitely wee people with small bone structures. If my inlaws didn't come off a boat from Serbia around the turn of the century, I'd say they could be related. I'm the same height as most of the women in his family, but outweigh them by a good 50 lbs (then again, I'm fighting perimenopause and the stupid hypothyroid spikes). Even in my "skinny" days, I was HUGE and I only weighed 105-110. I never could have worn their clothes IRL. I think the museum in Missouri has some of Laura's clothing, from everyday to church to what she wore to speaking engagements.

eta: just saw the pic at the beginning of the book and it confirms what I've read; she had some nice duds when the money came rolling in. That's friggin VELVET for a children's book signing.

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And thank you for this link. I've just sat here reading the foreword and will probably be up half the night devouring the rest of it. :lol:

My favorite part is when she discusses how Laura and Rose did historical research and visited Kansas to learn more about the native population for LHotP.

Okay, slightly off topic- did the women have specific corsets or maternity dresses while pregnant in that time period?

I just remember how detailed Laura's clothing descriptions were, the joys of having a new dress, and writing about reusing fabrics, I wish TFFY featured more on clothing and wasn't just a rough draft.

I know she hated her corset and I think maternity corsets existed, but I'm not sure how that would work with the style of dress. Derailing, but I read Gone With the Wind and with the descriptions of sex and pregnancy I was hoping maternity wear would be mentioned as Scarlett is so fashion obsessed but there wasn't much.

This has been bothering me for a while, so I hope there's nerds out there to answer that.

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I've always felt distressed that my waist can't easily be grabbed by two male hands like Laura's mother could be.

This thread is great! I'm impressed by how much you guys know. I have never seen the TV show. It sounds worth avoiding.

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Oh I have BEEN down that vortex!!!

Enjoyable, but... yeah :D

I had the books as a kid (translated versions the first time) and loved them to death, then later found out about the TV show, and while the first season or two are kiiiiiinda sorta maybe similar to the books, after that it diverges wildly.

At some point Shannen Doherty is in the show, as one of the orphans adopted when the original kids age out (I know there's a TV Tropes about this but I'm not going there because I need to sleep tonight).

Still, probably one of the best gifts I ever got as a kid was a sunbonnet sewed by the grandmother of one of my friends when I was in school in the US for a year (that friend was a "Little House" fan too and at 7 or 8 we were OBSESSED). Loved that thing. To. Death.

But yeah so there's the TV show, which takes crazy lolwut liberties with the books, but then the books also are fiction. (Just better fiction!)

I shall admit, on teh interwebz, that I made my mom sew me a sunbonnet and a dress similar to what Laura Ingalls Wilder wore, complete with a pinafore (from what I saw on the LHOTP tv show). And I did wear these garments to school one day...with my red and yellow 1970s addias sneakers... I even took my lunch that day in a galvanized metal bucket (nicked from the garage) :oops:

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Glad everyone is enjoying this thread. I was gone for a day and the thread has really grown!

A few notes. I'm surprised so many were able to read far more into the stories than I was able to as a child. I had good memories of reading the Little House books and bought the set in college. They are one of the few books I constantly re-read. I love their description of food, their happy homelife, of their way of life. Yet, it's only now I realize the deprivation and poverty they lived in. Rape, debt, starvation....Wilder only gave subtle hints in her books. It all went over my head as a child. I actually thought the Little House in the Wisconsin must be a wondrous place to live since Laura talked about how Pa would draw a net in the river and catch fish as big as Laura that filled a wagon. I thought they must have enjoyed an overabundance of food based on chapters upon chapters focus on making sausage, baking pies, butchering pigs.....

It was disappointing to read that Pa Ingalls was not the family-focused, upstanding man he appeared in the series. I mean, he seemed to have put his family's needs behind his 'itchy feet', although I'm sure he also felt the burden of providing for a family of six. "The Long Winter" was one of my favorite books in the series. It impressed upon me the deprivation they suffered during those seven months but I never felt like they truly starved. The line in the series, a mention of how Carrie had not "recovered" from the long winter as she should, was the only time I felt the family may have truly starved during the winter.

I've done a lot of reading on famine and third world poverty. It's only now I'm starting to make a connection between that and how the Ingalls must have lived. It was startling to me that such deprivation occurred in the US...but I think that's the same myopic thinking most fundies suffer from when they look at the past with such rose-tinted glasses.

Anyway, it's facinating to read up about how the pioneers lived, what the Ingalls were like as real people, how foolish for anyone to think Laura Ingalls Wilder led a charmed life. It makes me wonder why fundies want to emulate those times. It seems many fundies enjoy those books (except for the last one with Laura's relationship with Almanzo). Even the Maxwells said they allowed the Little House series except for the last couple of books. It's focus on wholesome family life, strict gender roles, and lauding of seemingly brave, Christian pioneers duking it out without gov't interference probably makes it extremely attractive to fundies. It's sad to think that most fundies, if they approve of the books, will always think of the Little House books as "proof" of how life was back then.

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Well...I did live in an actual log house (a studio, though with things like power and plumbing) for four years, and part of the reason was because of the books. It was also available and the rent was right at the time. As a kid I was a bit obsessed with the books and I guess some of that hung on, especially as I essentlally moved West to start over and all that, so when I was looking for a place and the log cabin was there, I grabbed it!

I've known the books were fictionalized from the time I was a kid, but that doesn't bother me -- I reread them not long ago after not reading them for years and they were still surprisingly dark. It caught me off guard; I know enough about her actual life to know there was a lot of darkness there, but I guess I just didn't notice as a kid. Of course I didn't know what winter was like either, let alone a winter with no food. The Long Winter scares me now! I am willing to excuse the racial attitudes in the books because of both the setting and how long ago the books were actually written -- I think they need explanation to kids, but aren't across-the-board deplorable given both of those. The minstrel show, though...yikes. One of the bits that bothers me most is one that I'm sure the fundies love, when Laura tells Almanzo that she doesn't want to vote. I wonder how long it took her to change her mind on that once she actually could! And I bet some of them just love Almanzo's teacher driving those older kids out of the school with a whip. :(

The show, if you ignore both the books and any pretence at historical accuracy, was just so so wrong but hilariously so if you have a dark enough sense of humor. There's a 2005 TV movie of LHOTP that Disney did that isn't bad, and was a whole lot darker than that show ever was. [nitpick]Though they really should have invested in a bit of dark hair dye for the little girl who played Laura.[/nitpick]

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I'll speak up for the Ingalls' racial attitudes in the books....I actually thought what made the books so appealing was that Laura in the books had a positive view of the Indians, which contrasted sharply with her mother's. It was mentioned a few times Ma Ingalls hated Indians, yet Laura did not share that attitude and she hinted Pa respected them for their knowledge. I think the book translate well because it doesn't take a virulent racist attitude. The only place kids may be confused at is the black ministry show, which I don't think was maliciously done but may confuse kids as it is associated with negative caricatures in this country (Ted Danson not withstanding...). Otherwise, I don't feel too poorly about the racial treatment in the book, especially given it's time period. It's the same with its treatment of women; for it's time, the Ingalls females were wonderful examples of smart, hardworking women who tried to make a living. It's good to remind children reading the book of the time period, but I don't think kids would pick up negative racist or sexist attitudes from it.

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Oh yes, do read "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch", if you are a fan of the show. I fell in love with its author.

Super excited about the journals coming out. I used to play "putting up food for The Long Winter" in my back yard. My mother did not appreciate the salad I tried to feed my brother, as it was hemlock. Oops. WTF was there hemlock in our yard is what I wonder!

The show did get a little preachy, and occasionally improbable, and Michael Landon's hair and oily, shirtless chest still gives me the creeps. I did, recently, see my all time favorite episode: the one where Caroline is at home alone and cuts her leg. It is very strange and "arty". Of course, the detoxing of Albert 2-parter, with Pa helping him kick "The Morphine" is also a classic.

I've learned a lot on this thread, and I am a fan of the books and show, and have even visited a few of the major sites, having grown up in the midwest. Thanks to the FJ braintrust!

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Sigh, I'm another one who had a bonnet. Where were you guys when I was 10?

Ok I had a prairie outfit too :lol: I saw it in the shops and wanted it because it reminded me of LIW!

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Oh yes, do read "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch", if you are a fan of the show. I fell in love with its author.

Super excited about the journals coming out. I used to play "putting up food for The Long Winter" in my back yard. My mother did not appreciate the salad I tried to feed my brother, as it was hemlock. Oops. WTF was there hemlock in our yard is what I wonder!

The show did get a little preachy, and occasionally improbable, and Michael Landon's hair and oily, shirtless chest still gives me the creeps. I did, recently, see my all time favorite episode: the one where Caroline is at home alone and cuts her leg. It is very strange and "arty". Of course, the detoxing of Albert 2-parter, with Pa helping him kick "The Morphine" is also a classic.

I've learned a lot on this thread, and I am a fan of the books and show, and have even visited a few of the major sites, having grown up in the midwest. Thanks to the FJ braintrust!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I cooked crapshit on the heater in my bedroom and made my brother eat the results. No problem with him; we battled for the role of Laura, but he always ended up being Carrie.

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Okay, slightly off topic- did the women have specific corsets or maternity dresses while pregnant in that time period?

I just remember how detailed Laura's clothing descriptions were, the joys of having a new dress, and writing about reusing fabrics, I wish TFFY featured more on clothing and wasn't just a rough draft.

I know she hated her corset and I think maternity corsets existed, but I'm not sure how that would work with the style of dress. Derailing, but I read Gone With the Wind and with the descriptions of sex and pregnancy I was hoping maternity wear would be mentioned as Scarlett is so fashion obsessed but there wasn't much.

This has been bothering me for a while, so I hope there's nerds out there to answer that.

There's an entire Pinterest devoted to the subject:

http://pinterest.com/corsetra/maternity ... h-history/

Alas, most of the examples are distinctly later-period, 1880 forward, many in the S-line of the early 20th century. I'm looking for evidence from earlier, around the time Caroline would have been pregnant with her older girls. It's entirely plausible that she'd have simply gone without; would the family have had the means during Caroline's childbearing years? And Laura might not have bothered for comfort purposes. In terms of Ingalls women indulging in maternity corsetry, we may be SOL, but the garment did exist and was used regularly enough to merit a number of ads.

Hope this helps.

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*snip*

The show did get a little preachy, and occasionally improbable, and Michael Landon's hair and oily, shirtless chest still gives me the creeps. I did, recently, see my all time favorite episode: the one where Caroline is at home alone and cuts her leg. It is very strange and "arty". Of course, the detoxing of Albert 2-parter, with Pa helping him kick "The Morphine" is also a classic.

*snip*

I loved the episodes about "The Morphine". And as for "classic" albeit WTF episodes, what about the episode with the fire at the blind school? The one where Mary's baby pretty much gets used as a battering ram to break the window before dying (along with some female character that I can't recall the name of). Or episode with the clown rapist. Absolutely bizarre. As cheesy and inaccurate as the show was, I still have a bit of fondness for it and watch it sometimes.

As for the books, I've slowly been rereading them and they are much darker than I remember - of course, the last time I read them I was probably 10. When I was little, I begged my mom for a sunbonnet...I never got one. Thanks to this thread, I'm getting ready to order some of the bios from Amazon and then probably drive everyone in my house crazy talking about LIW.

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Ok I had a prairie outfit too :lol: I saw it in the shops and wanted it because it reminded me of LIW!

I had several sunbonnets. My grandmother made a bunch of them as party favors for my sister's birthday. She kept the pattern and taught me how to sew them. They're pretty easy to make. As for long prairie dresses, a lot of girls had them, including me. This was during the era of the Bicentennial, Holly Hobbie, and the Little House TV show. You could walk into any Sears store and find a long, red-white-and-blue or gingham checked dress with a white apron.

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There's an entire Pinterest devoted to the subject:

http://pinterest.com/corsetra/maternity ... h-history/

Alas, most of the examples are distinctly later-period, 1880 forward, many in the S-line of the early 20th century. I'm looking for evidence from earlier, around the time Caroline would have been pregnant with her older girls. It's entirely plausible that she'd have simply gone without; would the family have had the means during Caroline's childbearing years? And Laura might not have bothered for comfort purposes. In terms of Ingalls women indulging in maternity corsetry, we may be SOL, but the garment did exist and was used regularly enough to merit a number of ads.

Hope this helps.

Gah! Those things look like torture devices. I guess that is why late 19th century women look so grim in photographs.

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I love these books and I'm loving this thread. Honestly, I reread them over and over when my husband was deployed. I found something new each time. My mom said I should be reading scripture, I was reading LHOP and Harry Potter. The well known and loved words were a balm to my soul. I literally could not sleep without reading something from one of these books. The books mean so much more to me as an adult, and I believe I have no illusions of how "wonderful" it is. It does not sound like a pleasant time one little bit.

Laura's portrayal of Almanzo's sister Eliza Jane in Farmer Boy is definitely colored by her own experiences with Eliza Jane/

As an adult I realized what an asshole PA was, and how really horrible their lives were. The Long Winter seems so desolate and just plain starving. I have a little house cook book, and I've made (burned) Vanity Cakes.

I love Laura so much, I have a daughter named after her.

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I love these books and I'm loving this thread. Honestly, I reread them over and over when my husband was deployed. I found something new each time. My mom said I should be reading scripture, I was reading LHOP and Harry Potter. The well known and loved words were a balm to my soul. I literally could not sleep without reading something from one of these books. The books mean so much more to me as an adult, and I believe I have no illusions of how "wonderful" it is. It does not sound like a pleasant time one little bit.

Laura's portrayal of Almanzo's sister Eliza Jane in Farmer Boy is definitely colored by her own experiences with Eliza Jane/

As a teenager, Rose went to live with her aunt Eliza Jane so that she could finish high school. I wonder if that contributed to some of the conflict between Laura and her sister-in-law? Maybe they had different ideas about how Rose should be educated?

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