The Theresa Y. Crawley, D.D.S. Lecture
Over the past few decades, Laura Ingalls Wilder has become one of our most recognizable frontier figures, beloved for her autobiographical children’s novels and known worldwide thanks to the long-running and immensely popular television show based on Little House on the Prairie, still in syndication. Perhaps more than any other single figure, Wilder now embodies our fondest—and perhaps least examined—fantasies about the history of the American West, white settlement, and the homesteading movement.
In this lecture, Fraser takes a closer look at Wilder’s life and work, revealing the ways in which she wove a powerful mythology around her childhood. Her determination to celebrate self-reliance—among her parents’ most prized values—reflects attitudes forged during the scourge of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, as she labored to complete her series under the secret editorial supervision of her daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane, now recognized as one of the “mothers” of the Libertarian movement. As Wilder’s reputation continues to evolve, her life offers astonishing insights into our yearning to see a complex past in a positive light.
Speaker: Caroline Fraser
Caroline Fraser is the editor of the Library of America edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and the author of three works of nonfiction—God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution, and Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, all from Metropolitan Books. One of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of the Year, Prairie Fires won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and BIO International’s 2018 Plutarch Award. It was the finalist for the Columbia Journalism School’s Mark Lynton History Prize and has been shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize.
Fraser’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.