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Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist

Writings from the Ozarks

Edited by Stephen W. Hines

Publication Year: 2008

Before Laura Ingalls Wilder found fame with her Little House books, she made a name for herself with short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers. Read today, these pieces offer insight into her development as a writer and depict farm life in the Ozarks—and also show us a different Laura Ingalls Wilder from the woman we have come to know.

            This volume collects essays by Wilder that originally appeared in the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1924. Building on the initial compilation of these articles under the title Little House in the Ozarks, this revised edition marks a more comprehensive collection by adding forty-two additional Ruralist articles and restoring passages previously omitted from other articles.

            Writing as “Mrs. A. J. Wilder” about modern life in the early twentieth-century Ozarks, Laura lends her advice to women of her generation on such timeless issues as how to be an equal partner with their husbands, how to support the new freedoms they’d won with the right to vote, and how to maintain important family values in their changing world. Yet she also discusses such practical matters as how to raise chickens, save time on household tasks, and set aside time to relax now and then.

            New articles in this edition include “Making the Best of Things,” “Economy in Egg Production,” and “Spic, Span, and Beauty.” “Magic in Plain Foods” reflects her cosmopolitanism and willingness to take advantage of new technologies, while “San Marino Is Small but Mighty” reveals her social-political philosophy and her interest in cooperation and community as well as in individualism and freedom. Mrs. Wilder was firmly committed to living in the present while finding much strength in the values of her past.

            A substantial introduction by Stephen W. Hines places the essays in their biographical and historical context, showing how these pieces present Wilder’s unique perspective on life and politics during the World War I era while commenting on the challenges of surviving and thriving in the rustic Ozark hill country. The former little girl from the little house was entering a new world and wrestling with such issues as motor cars and new “labor-saving” devices, but she still knew how to build a model small farm and how to get the most out of a dollar.

            Together, these essays lend more insight into Wilder than do even her novels and show that, while technology may have improved since she wrote them, the key to the good life hasn’t changed much in almost a century. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist distills the essence of her pioneer heritage and will delight fans of her later work as it sheds new light on a vanished era.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-15

Parts of this book originally appeared in Little House in the Ozarks, published in 1991. I want to acknowledge once again the enormous help I received from the staff at Ellis Library at the University of Missouri– Columbia, where I did my first research, and I also want to thank the staff...

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pp. 1-9

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the state of Kansas was finally closing its few remaining country schools. In the eastern part of the state, where I grew up on a dairy farm, the inefficiency of the old system gave rural schoolchildren only eight months of instruction while their town and city counterparts had the “advantage” of nine months of schooling...

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A Note on the Text

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pp. 11-27

The columns have been reproduced here as they were originally published. Punctuation, spelling, and capitalization remain unchanged with the exception of obvious typos such as “teh” for “the” and the article titles, which have been altered only to standardize the capitalization...

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1911 –1915

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pp. 13-47

There is a movement in the United States today, wide-spread and very farreaching in its consequences. People are seeking after a freer, healthier, happier life. They are tired of the noise and dirt, bad air and crowds of the cities and are turning longing eyes toward the green slopes, wooded hills, pure...

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pp. 48-95

One hundred and seventeen thousand dollars was paid for poultry, eggs and cream, in the town of Mansfield during 1915. Of this amount $58,000 was paid for eggs alone, $39,000 for poultry and $20,000 for cream. During the time of the turkey drives $10,000 in 10 days was paid for these farm products by the produce men...

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pp. 96-130

A group of friends was gathered around a glowing fire the other evening. The cold outside and the warmth and cheer and soft lights within had opened their hearts and they were talking freely together as good friends should. “I propose that we eliminate the word can’t from our vocabularies for the...

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pp. 131-168

We should bring ourselves to an accounting at the beginning of the New Year and ask these questions: What have I accomplished? Where have I fallen short of what I desired and planned to do and be? I never have been in favor of making good resolutions on New Year’s Day just because...

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pp. 169-208

Among my books of verse, there is an old poem that I could scarcely do without. It is “The Fool’s Prayer” by Edward Rowland Sill and every now and then I have been impelled, in deep humiliation of spirit, to pray the prayer made by that old-time jester of the king. Even tho one is not in the habit...

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pp. 209-240

The Man of the Place and I were sitting cozily by the fire. The evening lamp was lighted and the day’s papers and the late magazines were scattered over the table. But tho we each held in our hands our favorite publication; we were not reading. We were grumbling about the work we had to do and...

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pp. 241-263

For several years I have been talking and talking, hearing no reply, until I came to feel that no one was listening to me. And to find that you are really there and will answer back is truly delightful...

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pp. 264-280

With the holidays safely past, it is a good time to make resolutions not to overeat. It is easy to do so just after eating too much of too many good things. We do eat too much! Everyone says so! But we keep right on eating. I remember a neighborhood dinner I attended recently. You who have been to...

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pp. 281-297

With the coming of another new year we are all more or less a year older. Just what does it mean to us—this growing older? Are we coming to a cheerful, beautiful old age, or are we being beaten and cowed by the years as they pass...

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pp. 298-312

Standing on the shore with the waves of the Pacific rolling to my feet, I looked over the waters as far as my eyes could reach until the gray of the ocean merged with the gray of the horizon’s rim. One could not be distinguished from the other. Where, within my vision, the waters stopped and the skies...

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Coda, 1931

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pp. 313-315

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” says the poem, but a housekeeper turns to thoughts of housecleaning, and not so lightly either. Even when the whole place is in order, we feel that something more should be added...

Bibliography: Mrs. A. J. Wilder ’s Articles and Columns in the Missouri Ruralist

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pp. 317-322


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pp. 323-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780826266156
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826217714

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2008