Little House Libertarians

Oct 2, 2018

A lot of you reading this are familiar with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder because you watched the popular "Little House on the Prairie" television show that ran from 1974-1983.

But the television show came long after Laura Ingalls Wilder began sharing the story of her family's journey through the open frontier. She shared her memories in a series of beloved Little House books that spanned a life of pioneering both before and after the government declared the frontier closed. She speaks in simple and intimate prose of everyday life that fascinated millions of young readers who wanted to live like Laura. Fans today still want to believe in the absolute truth of every word. 

Unfortunately, things aren't usually as they seem. Laura wrote the books with her daughter Rose, who infused Laura's words with libertarian political ideals that created a new pioneer myth different from the reality of Laura's hardship. Gone are the neighbors, the dependence on others, the conflict with Native Americans -- replaced by idealized stories of perseverance, independence, and self-sufficiency. 

How did these books shape a generation of readers, and what is their lasting legacy?


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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on October 19, 2016.