Laura Ingalls Wilder Pioneer Girl: the Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill

When I was in graduate school, rapidly becoming disillusioned with the idea of a career in academia, and rather lonely, two of my favorite comfort reads were the last two (since these were the ones in which Laura and her family settle down, have a decent, pleasant home, nothing horrible happens to the crops, Laura gets nice clothes, and also gets Almanzo and a home of her own).  Sometimes I re-read The Long Winter, but I can't remember ever being moved to read the first four...

In any event, it was with great interest that I read (in just about a single sitting) Pioneer Girl, the memoir that was Laura's first stab at chronicling her life.  It is her true autobiography (the Little House books are fiction heavily based on the memories that Laura gathered here) and so there are many places where the published books and this previously unpublished account diverge.   Not only was Laura's own original story interesting (both in its own right, and as a different view of the events in the published books), but the extensive footnotes add lovely historical context and clarification, and made for good reading as well.

I felt I knew Laura pretty well from the Little House books, but feel I know her even better now--I didn't realize, for instance, that she really was insecure about not being thin.  I also appreciated learning that Laura snapped a bit at her daughter Rose over Rose's editing!  Laura's account of the Little House on the Prairie time is still troubling for its portrayal of Native Americans, but slightly less so than  it is in the final book, because of being briefer and because of Ma not spewing hateful prejudice as she does in the final version.

Short answer--the original Pioneer Girl is well worth reading in its own right, and is a must read for fans of the Little House series!

(It was also nice to see Helen Dore Boylston, author of the Sue Barton nursing books, which I love, mentioned in passing...she lived with Rose Wilder Lane for a time in Laura and Almanzo's old house).


  1. We've sold a TON of these at work (Laura Ingalls Wilder love is a Kansas Thing) but I haven't read one. I figured it'd be boring and academic, but you make me think it's worth the while to read.

    1. The footnotes aren't boring at all--they are things like what type of creature was the crab in Banks of Plum Creek, and what happened to minor characters in real life. I'd say give it a try!

  2. I reviewed this one today too :)

  3. I can't wait to read this one! I've just had trouble finding a copy.


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