This is where it all began. Had it not been for Rose Wilder Lane asking Mama Bess to put her childhood memories down on paper, the field of children's literature may never have known much about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
After losing their investments in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, and considering that so many of her family members including Ma, Mary, and her beloved Pa had passed on, Laura sat down to write the first manuscript of her childhood memories of living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. According to Donald Zochert's Laura, in 1931 when editor Virginia Kirkus from Harper's read the manuscript on a train ride home to Connecticut, she was so engrossed in the material she missed her station. She knew she held in her hands "the book that no depression could stop."
Harper published Little House in the Big Woods the following year and Laura Ingalls Wilder became an overnight success. The collaboration between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane churned out seven additional titles: Farmer Boy (1932), Little House on the Prairie (1935), On The Banks of Plum Creek (1937), By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), The Long Winter (1940), Little Town on the Prairie (1941), and These Happy Golden Years (1943). Roger Lea MacBride discovered Laura's final manuscript with Rose's belongings after her death in 1968. This manuscript became known as The First Four Years when it was published by HarperCollins in 1971.
But without the success of Little House in the Big Woods during the height of the Great Depression, Laura's other childhood memories and the young life of Almanzo Wilder may never have been shared with millions of children the world over. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving with our families, may we also give thanks for the little girl who grew up on the prairie and later captured her cherished memories in a series of books that continues to gain fans every day.