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Monday, April 22, 2024

A Harder Life Revealed

If you love reading stories that reveal life, as it really was, for our Dakota pioneer ancestors, you’ll enjoy The Pioneer Girl Project blog, sponsored by the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Established in 2010 to document the research surrounding the publication of a comprehensive edition of the Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography, Prairie Girl, the blog is ongoing and features documents, excerpts, photos and video, discussion and analysis of this adult exploration of a world many of us were introduced to in childhood.

Amidst a controversial 2018 decision by the American Library Association to change its coveted Wilder Medal (awarded between 1960 and 2017) to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the project has produced three significant books that examine Wilder’s life, not only as the child in a family struggling with the settlement of lands made available through the U.S. Homestead Act but also as a writer struggling to record her story at a time when fewer women were published outside of the children’s genre.

In 2014, an annotated version of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s unpublished autobiography was released in print. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography was written before the Little House books and offers a more accurate depiction of pioneer life, including those events that had been culled from the publication of the children’s books in the 1930s. You can read more about the vision for and release of the book in this article from Publisher’s Weekly.

To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth, the publisher released Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, reviewed here by researchers at the Rural Women’s Studies Association (RWSM). The book featured eleven scholarly essays regarding Wilder’s work and viewpoint.

Most recently, in 2021, the publisher released Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts, a compilation and examination of how Wilder and her daughter Rose collaborated on her autobiography that, ultimately, failed to find a publisher in her lifetime.

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