Monday, August 12, 2013

Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame, a "prepper" before prepper was cool?

by Eric Dondero 

Libertarian Republican Senior Editor Clifford Thies and I were close friends of Roger Lea MacBride, 1976 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus from 1992 to '95. Roger of course, was the adopted grandson and close confidante of Rose Wilder Lane daughter of "Little House on the Prairie" series author Laura Ingalls-Wilder.

The Boston Globe features a long piece this morning by yet another writer - Christine Woodside - in a long line of writers seeking to cast Rose and Laura's life in a manner critical of the mother-daughter's pair's staunch libertarianism. 

It's worth the read, only for a chuckle at the clearly pro-collectivist rants. But further down, this particularly poignant tale of Rose's drift into libertarian radicalism. She was a genuine Glenn Beck-style prepper, way ahead of her time. 

From the Globe, "Little Libertarians on the prairie -- Was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved children’s series written as an anti-New Deal fable? The Wilder family papers suggest yes."
AS LANE REDRAFTED the last four of the original Little House books between 1937 and 1943, her extensive correspondence reveals, she was growing increasingly antigovernment in her personal views. She cut back her income specifically to avoid paying taxes; during World War II, Lane refused a ration card and retreated full time to her newly acquired 3-acre farm in Danbury, Conn., where she canned her own beans, beets, squash, and green-applesauce. Throughout the early years of the Little House series, she had also continued to write fiction of her own. But Lane’s last novel, “Free Land,” about homesteading, published to great fanfare in 1938, had exhausted her. Her next effort, in 1939, the short story “Forgotten Man,” headed into what was becoming unpopular territory: It was an anti-New Deal story about a coal mine put out of business by government fees. The editors of the Saturday Evening Post rejected it for publication, calling it propaganda. 
Once, in 1943, Lane was so outraged by a radio broadcast about Social Security that she penned an angry postcard comparing such programs to Nazi policies. (Someone sent it to the FBI, which dispatched a state trooper to her farm.) In 1944, the year after the last Little House book came out, newspaper reporter Helen L. Worden interviewed Lane, writing that Lane had “taken to the storm cellar until the Roosevelt administration blows over.” Lane had stopped writing her own novels, she said, “because I don’t want to contribute to the New Deal.” 
She began to attend meetings against communism. She exchanged letters at the time with other conservative thinkers, including Isabel Paterson, H.L. Mencken, George Schuyler, and Clare Booth Luce. According to a 1990 biography of Lane by William Holtz, Lane socialized with Ayn Rand at her Danbury home and admired her writing, but found her elitist and irrational.
Cutting back on her income to avoid paying the income tax, and refusing the Fed Gov issued ration card? How cool is that? Even better, comparing Social Security to Nazi policies? Whoa! Way to go Rose! Pretty similar to what we advocate here at LR. It's no accident.

There are other take-outs from the piece, of particular interest to modern-day libertarian politicos. Ms. Woodside does rightly credit Roger with being a founder of the Libertarian Party, and of the Little House series being an early inspiration for America's Third Largest Party. (Roger garnered 176,000 votes in his 1976 presidential run, was on 32 state ballots, finishing fourth behind Eugene McCarthy. I dare say, he would have been mighty proud of Gary Johnson's 2012 run, 48 state ballots and 1.27 million votes.) Still, it's all diparaging. As if the libertarian ideal of self-sufficiency is unobtainable. 

Oh, and the author's name? Christine "Woodside"? She destroys her credibility right off the bat, with that obviously fake pen name. Yoh, Ms. Woodside, no courage of your own convictions? Why so scared to publish under your real name?


John Morris said...

Although white, Rose also wrote columns for the most widely read black owned newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier.

Pittsburgh's vibrant black community was largely destroyed by government urban renewal schemes.

Eric Dondero said...

Yeah, Roger used to tell me stories about that. Also about the "remnant" of 5 to 6 libertarians who got together in NYC weekly during the height of FDR's socialism.

Christine Woodside said...

Just wanted to note: I am Christine Woodside, the author of the article you are critiquing, and I just wanted to note that Christine Woodside is my real name. It's on my birth certificate, marriage license, driver's license, Social Security card, bank accounts, tax returns, and passport.