Monday, July 15, 2013

Author Spotlight: Stephen W. Hines

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks edited by Stephen W. Hines

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.

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder is the sort of writer who captures your heart. Her writing was tempered with wisdom and kindness. The Little House books are still read again and again by children all over the world; she’s inspired so many people. What will readers who remember her fondly from The Little House days learn about her from the newspaper columns you have collected in this book?

In Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist, Mrs. Widler's fans will encounter the adult Laura, and they will hear her as a slightly different voice. Here is a woman deeply involved in the day-to-day work of helping to run an Ozark farm, but she is also a woman interested in the world, politics, and the social issues of her day.

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder may not have identified herself as a feminist, but she undoubtedly influenced countless people who would. Do her Missouri Ruralist columns offer any further insight into her views on equality?

Certainly, she believed in a kind of equality, but that equality probably did not extend as far as it would in some quarters today. I doubt that Mrs. Wilder would have entertained the idea of a house husband, yet she certainly wanted to vote and hated the idea that when improvement organizations were formed, they were often constructed so as to have a "woman's auxiliary," which did a lot of work for which it did not get credit. She didn't want to be an auxiliary anything. She enjoyed political discussion. She was well-read and made so by her daughter Rose.

Q: How did compiling these essays expand your view of Wilder as a pioneer and a writer?

The essays gave me a more complete "biography" of Laura. I learned about a whole part of her life with which I was unfamiliar. The children's stories were great, but Mrs. Wilder continued to have a fascinating life after she left the Dakota prairie. The mature woman was a joiner, an organizer, a doer, a force in her community. No wonder she writes so much about simply coping with being busy!

Q: Wilder is known to have had a strained relationship with her daughter. Does she write about her role as a mother?

There is a fair amount of material concerning her and Rose, but very little that is negative. They didn't wash their underwear in public in those days. Laura was proud of Rose's accomplishments as a writer. And Rose had a penchant for wanting to look after her mother. They spent a good deal of time trying to mother each other

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder is renowned for having been a hard worker, and she also had a great sense of humor. What is something fun that readers can learn about her from this book?

She fed turtles that came to her back door and tied notes to the dog's collar to tell Almanzo when it was time for lunch. She liked to tell jokes on herself.

Q: What is next for you? Do you have any upcoming books or projects we can anticipate?

Well, my book on the Titanic, Titanic: One Newspaper, Seven Days, and the Truth That Shocked the World, is readily available at the Titanic museum in Branson and at other Titanic locations, and I am busily at work on another title called Treasures in Heaven.

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