A Different Time
The second hand on the clock points to the exact second of the day. Its importance in our life only lasts for one second before clicking on to the next and different second.
What was true at one time, no longer holds any relevance today. While it may still be true, often as not, things change, becoming different. It may be that some things improve, or they don't, but the truth is that the past is the past and cannot be changed. Yes, we learn from the past, but we live in the present and should be looking forward to the future rather than dwelling on the past.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, in the Big Woods region of Wisconsin, to Charles Phillip Ingalls and Caroline Lake (née Quiner) Ingalls. The couple had five children, Mary Amelia, Laura, Caroline Celistia (Carrie), Charles Frederick (who died in infancy), and Grace Pearl. Laura moved with her family from Wisconsin in 1869, when she was two years old. They stopped in Rothville, Missouri, and settled in Kansas, in Indian country near what is now Independence.
Laura would never finish high school and was poorly educated. She did find work as a teacher at age 15 as a way of helping her family, at a time when education was not required. She spent most of her life living on handouts from her family and eventually her own daughter. Laura would eventually become a simple and unsophisticated writer for farm journals, where she wrote about her life on the farm.
Spurred on by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, (1886 - 1968), who had become a famous American journalist, travel writer, novelist, political theorist, Laura would eventually tell the story of her experiences as a child, and from stories passed on by her family. These would become "Little House in the Big Woods" published in 1932, about living in the Big Woods region of Wisconsin and "Little House on the Prairie," published in 1935, about the family's experience living in Indian Territory in Kansas.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, the television series Little House on the Prairie was loosely based on the Little House books and starred Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as her father, Charles Ingalls.
In 1952, when the Association of Library Service was considering to name an award in her honor, a reader complained to Harper & Brothers (now Harper/Collins), the publisher of “Little House on the Prairie” about what the reader found to be a deeply offensive statement about Native Americans.
The reader pointed specifically to the book’s opening chapter, “Going West.” The 1935 tale of the pioneering family seeking unvarnished, unoccupied land opens with a character named Pa, modeled after Laura’s father, who tells of his desire to go “where the wild animals lived without being afraid.” Where “the land was level, and there were no trees.”
The complaint specifically addressed the line in the book, “there were no people. Only Indians lived there.”
The editor at Harper & Brothers who received the reader’s complaint wrote back saying it was “unbelievable” to her that not a single person at Harper’s ever noticed, for nearly 20 years, and that the reader's letter was the first that they had received.
Harper & Brothers decision in 1953 to change “people” to “settlers” in the offending sentence did little to quell the critics in later decades, who began describing Laura’s depictions of Native Americans and some African-Americans — and her storylines evoking white settlers’ manifest-destiny beliefs — as racist.
According to a 2007 biography of Laura by Pamela Smith Hill, the sentence appeared to imply that Native Americans were not people.
Until her death in 1957 she was beloved for the semi-autobiographical “Little House” children’s books, fictionalized versions of her family’s adventures traveling the western frontier in their covered wagon and its encounters with Native Americans.
Laura was the first to win the award in 1954 when she was in her late 80s and nearing the end of her life.
Now, after years of complaints, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, says it voted to strip Laura’s name from the award.
The decision makes Laura the latest target of efforts to purge from the cultural landscape symbols that honor historical figures who owned slaves, espoused racist views or engaged in racist practices.
In its decision to remove Laura’s name from the award, the library association had cited “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work” when it announced the review of Laura’s award in February. The award, reserved for authors or illustrators who have made “significant and lasting contribution to children’s literature,” will no longer be called the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.” It’s now the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.”
“This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Laura’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity, and respect, and responsiveness,” the association said in a statement on its website.
And, now the rest of the story
As it turns out, Laura Ingalls Wilder may not have written the books. They may have been ghostwritten from interviews with Laura by her famous daughter, Rose Lane.
Rose Lane was reputed to be one of the highest-paid female writers in the United States by the late 1920s. About this time, she began suffering from periodic bouts of self-doubt and depression in her mid-life, diagnosing herself as having Bipolar disorder. During these times of depression, she was unable to move ahead with her writing, but would easily find work as a ghostwriter or "silent" editor for other well-known writers.
Some, including Lane's biographer, Professor William Holtz, have alleged that she was Laura's ghostwriter. Some others, such as Timothy Abreu of Gush Publishing, argue that Laura was an "untutored genius," relying on her mainly for some early encouragement and her connections with publishers and literary agents.
Still, others contend that she took each of Laura's unpolished rough drafts in hand and completely, but silently, transformed them into the series of books known today. The existing evidence that includes ongoing correspondence between the women about the books' development, Lane's extensive diaries and Laura's handwritten manuscripts with edit notations shows an ongoing collaboration between the two women.
Miller, using this record, describes varying levels of involvement by Lane. Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and These Happy Golden Years (1943), he notes, received the least editing. "The first pages ... and other large sections of Big Woods", he observes, "stand largely intact, indicating ... from the start ...Laura's talent for narrative description." Some volumes saw heavier participation by Lane, while The First Four Years (1971) appears to be exclusively the work of Laura. Concludes Miller, "In the end, the lasting literary legacy remains that of the mother more than that of the daughter ... Lane possessed style; Wilder had substance."
The controversy over authorship is often tied to the movement to read the Little House series through an ideological lens. Lane emerged in the 1930s as an avowed conservative polemicist and critic of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and his New Deal programs.
Authors throughout time have constructed characters that had views other than their own. What would be acceptable in literature is quite different than it was in the past. However, we should not destroy the past and resort to book burning and character assignation of the those than can no longer defend themselves.
If so, should the Bible with its justifications for slavery, abuse of African-Americans and segregation, be banned as well. The single greatest humiliation of American Christianity is its long endorsement of slavery and even longer endorsement of racism that continues to this day.
Let's be happy with the second we have now and cease to worry about what we cannot possibly change about those past seconds.
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