PIONEER GIRL, LAURA INGALLS WILDER'S UNPUBLISHED MEMOIR

The hand-written Pioneer Girl manuscript is archived by the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Lane Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. It is not available for viewing or study, except by special arrangement.

A microfilm copy of the handwritten pages is available inter-library loan (ILL) through the University of Missouri at Columbia. Contact your local library to arrange for inter-library loan of the microfilm. There may be a fee involved. You will need to have the film information below, plus the address and phone number for Ellis Library at the University of Missouri at Columbia. For additional information, visit  the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection website.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder papers - item C3633 - are listed by "folder." There are 34 folders of papers found on three reels of microfilm:

  • Film # 1 contains Folders 1-14, which include the Pioneer Girl manuscript (folders 1-6), school tablet manuscripts and/or revisions for both Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy, plus part of the manuscripts and/or revisions for Little House on the Prairie.
  • Film #2 contains Folders 15-29, which include part of the school tablet manuscripts and/or revisions for Little House on the Prairie, a later draft of Little House on the Prairie, manuscripts and/or revisions for On the Banks of Plum Creek, notes and correspondence between Laura Ingalls Wilder and daughter Rose Wilder Lane, a later draft of On the Banks of Plum Creek, and part of the two existing but unpublished versions of manuscripts and/or revisions for By the Shores of Silver Lake.
  • Film # 3 contains Folders 30-34, which include part of the two existing but unpublished versions of manuscripts and/or revisions for By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder's account of the trip from De Smet to Mansfield which became On the Way Home, and miscellaneous correspondence concerning her manuscripts and published books.

Also at the University of Missouri at Columbia is the Laura Ingalls Wilder papers - item 3702.

  • This microfilm reel contains a copy of a draft of Little Town on the Prairie, the original of which was donated to the children's room of the Pomona Public Library. This microfilm version, which is different from the published book, appears to be a revision of parts of the Pioneer Girl manuscript found in Folders 4 and 5 above.

To purchase or inquire about the microfilm reels, contact Western Historical Manuscript Collection - Columbia / 23 Ellis Library / University of Missouri / Columbia, Missouri 65201-5149 USA. Phone: (573) 882-6028. Email: whmc@umsystem.edu . Currently, reels of microfilm can be ordered for $40 each, postpaid.

Two typed versions of the handwritten Pioneer Girl manuscript were unsuccessfully marketed for publication by agents of Rose Wilder Lane. Known as the "Carl and Zelma Brandt version" (160 pages) and the "George T. Bye version" (195 pages), these as well as a "shorter revised copy" (126 pages) are part of the Rose Wilder Lane Collection archived at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa.

Research copies of these may be purchased for $.50 per page postpaid, or made in person for less. For information, contact the Senior Archivist /  Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum / P.O. Box 488, / 210 Parkside Drive / West Branch, Iowa 52358 USA .  Phone: (319) 643-5301.  

South Dakota State Historical Society Press plans to publish Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Editon (of Laura Ingalls Wilder's handwritten version of her Pioneer Girl manuscript) during the summer of 2014. Visit the Pioneer Girl Project website for updates or phone (605) 733-6009.

 

   

FROM  PIONEER GIRL TO "PIONEER CLASSICS"

First edition, Little House in the Big Woods Rose Wilder Lane originally tried to sell her mother's Pioneer Girl story as a magazine serial, and it is known that both Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping rejected it. Around 1930, Laura and/or Rose reworked the "Big Woods" portion into a separate manuscript of about 7000 words, titled "When Grandma Was a Little Girl." In February 1931, "Grandma" was accepted for publication by Alfred A. Knopf, with the condition that it be expanded to about 25,000 words as a story book for children ages 8-12. Marion Fiery, editor of the Children's Book Department at Knopf also recommended a title change: those suggested included Long Ago Yesterday, Little Pioneer Girl, and Little Girl in the Big Woods. By late summer, Wilder had completed the manuscript; its title was Little House in the Woods.

In November 1931, Knopf discontinued its Children's Book Department and returned Laura Ingalls Wilder's manuscript to her. In December 1931, it was picked up by Harper & Brothers, and published in April 1932 as Little House in the Big Woods. That same month, it was released as a Junior Literary Guild title.

Then, as now, Little House in the Big Woods was read and loved by both children and adults. Despite a depressed economy in the children's book trade, Wilder's second book, Farmer Boy, was released with favorable reviews the following year. Originally, Wilder envisioned a series of seven books. The last book, Prairie Girl, would tell the story of the year after the Hard Winter and end with fictional Laura earning her teaching certificate shortly after her engagement to Almanzo Wilder. Following publication of Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), and The Long Winter (1940), readers had become so interested in Laura's story that they begged for more and more. Wilder decided to add an additional book to the series, so the story of the years up to and including Laura and Almanzo's marriage was told in two final volumes, Little Town on the Prairie (1941) and These Happy Golden Years (1943).

Five "Little House" titles were selected as Newbery Honor Books: On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. The Newbery Medal has been awarded annually since 1922 to recognize the most outstanding children's book published during the previous year, the winner determined by vote of members of the American Library Association (ALA). While additional Newbery Honor Books aren't always named, one or more exceptional books are often given this distinction each year.

Three additional Laura Ingalls Wilder books are now considered to be part of the "Little House" series but were published posthumously: On the Way Home (1962), The First Four Years (1971), and West From Home (1974). Continued interest in "all things Laura" has resulted in biographies, companion books, pageants, conferences, musical tributes, and spin-offs. The "Little House" books remain strong sellers and are oft-recommended classics.

"Little House" books    "Little House" books    "Little House" books

In 2004, an edition of the "Little House" books was printed with colorized Garth Williams illustrations (not all of the illustrations from earlier editions were included). The original eight titles of the series are shown above left. In the center: an edition, packaged as "Little House - Big Adventure" books, a boxed set which includes the original eight titles plus The First Four Years, all with original illustrations by Garth Williams. At right, The Little House Books: the Library of America Collection, have a few historical photographs and notes on the text, but no illustrations. This edition is contains Wilder's original series plus The First Four Years, either as two volumes sold separately, or in a slipcase as shown above.

Support the Ingalls-Wilder heritage homesites by purchasing your "Little House" books from them!

 

Copyright 2013 by Nancy Cleaveland - All Rights Reserved.

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