Monday, May 7, 2012

Rose Wilder Lane

The rest of the story...

My interest was peaked, because we have the first stint of Rose's life in story-form, but no hints as to what happened with the rest of her life! Her mother was Laura Ingalls Wilder- the Laura of the Little House books. Rose grew up between farms and towns, first in the Dakotas, then in Missouri. She witnessed the turn of the century (1800's to 1900's) when she was around 12 years old. She was an excellent scholar and went to high school in Louisiana where her aunt lived, because there was no high school in her town. After that she became a telegrapher, going to school in Kansas City and taking various jobs, ending up in California. The books of her early life end with a potential love-interest taking her with him to go sell real-estate in what is now Orange County.

I did some research to see if I could find out what happened to her after that. She had quite the life!  She did marry that love interest. She had a baby boy who died, after which she was not able to have any more children (the same thing happened to her mother and grandmother. Fluke?) She eventually divorced, sources citing that she was a better real-estate seller than he was, which caused tension. She became a great journalist, editor, and ghost-writer. She had some pretty strong views that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, so I'll add them to this post. During the Depression she moved back to her parent's farm in Missouri and that is when Laura approached her with the manuscript of her young pioneer days. They were turned down for publishing several times, but eventually made a children's story out of the first part, which was published as "Little House in the Big Woods." After it's success, they published the rest of the stories in the same format. No one knows if Laura actually wrote the books, or if Rose was her "Ghost-writer," or if Rose just helped her edit and publish them.

Quotes from the Rose Years:
"Where are we going?" Rose said.
"Anywhere you want to go, as long as it's with me."
"Then let's just keep going and never get there," Rose said.

"She was growing bigger. Even her thoughts were growing bigger. She knew the joy of mothering a little baby, and she had felt the heavy weight of grief. She had begun to speak her mind and learned to hold her tongue. And yet, the more grown-up she became and the more she understood life's secrets, the more she yearned to know."

Strong views and political advocacy:
(Quoted from Wikipedia)
She combined advocacy of laissez faire and anti-racism. The views she expressed on race were strikingly similar to those of black writer, and fellow individualist, Zora Neale Hurston. Lane's columns emphasized the arbitrariness of racial categories and stressed the centrality of the individual. Instead of indulging in the "ridiculous, idiotic and tragic fallacy of 'race,' [by] which a minority of the earth's population has deluded itself during the past century", it was time for all Americans (black and white) to "renounce their race". Judging by skin color was comparable to the Communists who assigned guilt or virtue on the basis of class. In her view, the fallacies of race and class hearkened to the "old English-feudal 'class' distinction." The collectivists, including the New Dealers, were to blame for filling "young minds with fantasies of 'races' and 'classes' and 'the masses,' all controlled by pagan gods, named Economic Determinism or Society or Government."[4]

She is one of the founders of the American Libertarian Movement in the mid-century.

(On principle the following story isn't funny. But from a story-telling perspective, it is a chuckle-jerker! And I agree about the Ponzi scheme.)
In 1943, Lane was thrust into the national spotlight through her response to a radio poll on Social Security. She mailed in a post-card with a response likening the Social Security system to a Ponzi scheme that would ultimately destroy the US. The subsequent events remain unclear, but wartime monitoring of the mails eventually resulted in a Connecticut State Trooper being dispatched to her farmhouse (supposedly at the request of the FBI) to question her motives. Lane's vehement response to this infringement on her right of free speech resulted in a flurry of newspaper articles and the publishing of a pamphlet, "What is this, the Gestapo?," that was meant to remind Americans to be watchful of their rights, despite the wartime exigencies.
There was an FBI file compiled on Lane during this time, which is now available under the Freedom of Information Act.

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