‘Little House on the Prairie’ Author’s Autobiography Published for First Time Ever

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder National Archives

Fangirls and boys of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series know that the “fictional” account of the frontier life of a little girl named “Laura” is at least somewhat based on reality. But next summer, they will be able to find out if truth is better than fiction: for the first time, the author’s autobiography Pioneer Girl will be published.

Pamela Smith Hill, who’s editing and annotating the book, told The Rapid City Journal:

“We’re going to publish the original draft … because it gets us very, very close to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original voice,” Hill said. She acknowledges that, like any writer, Wilder might “cringe to have her rough draft published.”

The book was first written in 1930 but never found its way into print directly — too boring, more than one publisher said. Much of the material was repurposed for the Little House series, the first installment of which came out in 1932. Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder, had a hand in shaping the Little House series, notes The New Yorker:

did some minor tinkering with “Pioneer Girl,” but, once it was decided to fictionalize the memoir as a children’s story—the idea had come from an editor who rejected the memoir—she took a more aggressive role. It varied in intensity from book to book, but she dutifully typed up the manuscript pages, and, in the process, reshaped and heightened the dramatic structure. She also rewrote the prose so drastically that Laura sometimes felt usurped. “A good bit of the detail that I add to your copy is for pure sensory effect,” Rose explained in a letter.

Now readers will be able to see exactly how much Rose pumped up her mother’s prose.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder

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