Rose Wilder Lane: The Forgotten Author Part 2


Rose became a “Bachelor Girl” when she made the move to Kansas City, Kansas to become a telegraph operator. She joined other young women who wanted to get out and work, rather than get married and become mothers. She worked at the Midland Hotel and earned $60 every month. When she heard that all the girls who didn’t know how to type would be fired the next day, she did not back down from the challenge. She simply went home that day and spent the entire night mastering her skills on a typewriter.


Rose in her twenties

Rose moved on to Mount Vernon, Indiana before stopping in San Francisco, California in 1908. She grew tired of being a telegraph operator and decided to become one of the first female realtors in the California area. Her fellow workers were all men who did not like seeing a woman in their workplace. These men  allowed sales to go to a rival firm rather than let it go to a woman. One coworker was nicer to Rose. His name was Claire Gillette Lane and the two of them had the same outlook on life. The two had a whirlwind romance and got married on March 24, 1909. The two agreed their partnership would be an equal one. They would both contribute in order to make a living. The beginning of their marriage was happy as they traveled, made friends, and made a decent living. Rose soon fell pregnant, but the baby came to early and he passed away. He was the only child Rose would ever have.

Rose met Bessie Beatty, an author for the San Francisco Bulletin, and was able to get some freelance writing pieces published in the paper. The paper loved Rose’s work and soon offered her a position as Bessie Beatty’s editorial assistant. It was not long before she was writing her own features, usually about San Francisco and the people living within. Rose was becoming well known throughout California for her work. In 1915, Gillette was struggling to find work. Their equal partnership was becoming more one sided. Rose went on to work for Sunset Magazine and published her first biography about Henry Ford in 1917. Soon, the couple realized they no longer shared the same goals and decided to separate. Their divorce was final in 1918.

Rose published her first novel, Diverging Roads, right after her divorce. She took inspiration from her own failed marriage in order to write it. Rose decided to leave San Francisco and went to explore new opportunities in New York. Soon, readers found Rose’s articles in Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Pictorial Review. Most of her friends were up and coming artists and authors. She started to get involved with the Communist Party and attended meetings and discussions. She believed communism was the best portrayal of American ideals. Rose wanted to get more involved with the Party, but was offered a job by the American Red Cross. For the next few years, Rose traveled throughout Europe and reported on the conditions of countries during World War I. She wrote numerous articles for magazines like the National Geographic, Harper’s, World’s Traveler, and Ladies Home Journal. She also published two novels, The Dancer of Shamakha and The Peaks of Shala after taking inspiration from places like Albania. After being oversees for so long, Rose decided to return home to Rocky Ridge Farm in 1924.

Pictured left: Rose in Brittany, France circa 1921. Pictured Right: Rose at Rocky Ridge Farm in 1926

Now home, Rose set up her typewriter in her upstairs bedroom and continued to write. She took inspiration from Mansfield for her stories now and often explored the hills and countryside looking for information that she could use. Her articles were immediately published by popular magazines and often fetched a high price. After three years at Rocky Ridge, Rose decided she wanted to return to Albania. She loved the country and their way of life. She met a young boy, Rexh Meta, and became his surrogate mother. She eventually funded his education at Oxford in England. Even though she was in another country, Rose’s name was still big in the United States and was considered to be the highest paid female author. After many years in Albania, Rose decided to return to Rocky Ridge once again.

Rose built a brand new Rock House for her parents and kept the Farmhouse for herself and fellow authors to stay and visit. She spent a lot of time with her mother and kept up with the social scene in Mansfield. Many visitors loved hearing about Rose’s writing career and experiences while abroad. Rose offered hope in the form of her novel, Let the Hurricane Roar, during the Great Depression. She wanted people to know that the spirit of pioneers couldn’t be broken. Instead, they should look forward to the future. The book became a bestseller during 1933 and 1934. During the 1930s, most of Rose’s stories were published by the Saturday Evening Post and talked about the hardships farmers and pioneers faced. She took a lot of inspiration from her own life, including the lives of her close family. While writing, Rose realized her mother had a desire to write as well. She pushed Laura to write down her experiences as a young girl. Rose took over the editing process and communicated with the publishers. The rest is history. Laura’s first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932 and her last book, These Happy Golden Years, was published in 1943.


A newspaper ad for Credo

In 1936, Rose turned 50 and was now interested in the political aspect of the United States. She loved talking to people from all walks of life and hearing their opinions and beliefs. Rose was a firm believer in Individualism, which meant that everyone is entitled to control his or her own fate. Rose’s next project was titled Credo, which turned out to be an explosive article about personal liberty. Rose was now anti-communist and against Roosevelt’s New Deal. She believed the government was becoming to involved with people’s personal lives and wanted her opinion to be known. The article was a huge success, considered by some to be the most successful magazine article of all time. Rose received thousands of letter from people who agreed with her outlook. Individualism was the backbone of the United States and it needed to stay that way.

Stay tuned for the conclusion to Rose’s story!


Anderson, William. Laura’s Rose, Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, 1986.


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