Rose Wilder Lane: The Forgotten Author Part 3

1937-1968

After Rose’s successful political article, Credo, was released she continued to voice her strong opinions. Now living in New York, Rose started a new project titled Free Land. She wrote it in response to people complaining about how much things have changed. The Homestead Act was repealed in 1935, so the government no longer offered land for free. Rose argued the land was never free anyway. Farmers worked and sacrificed in order to get anything. It was never just handed to them. Free Land was an instant success and topped the bestsellers list. Shortly after, Rose was told that her yearly income of $100,000 would increase even more if she went along with Communism and supported their principles in her writing. Rose did not like to be told what to do. She was fed up with what the publishing industry had become and no longer wanted to be apart of it. Magazines and editors were begging Rose for more pieces, but Rose decided it was time to make a change.

RWL in congress 1939

Rose testifying before Congress in 1939

Rose purchased a farmhouse in Danbury, Connecticut and settled in. She started remodeling it immediately, almost doing all the work herself. She poured cement, built bookcases for her expansive book collection, painted furniture, and planted a garden. Although her time spent writing was dwindling, Rose was enticed to write articles for Woman’s Day, mostly about her homemaking skills. When she wasn’t writing, she was reading in her study. Rose’s thirst for knowledge was never quenched. She became an expert in government, economics, history, religion, and philosophy. This knowledge served her well for her next project, The Discovery of Freedom. In the book, Rose wrote about the history of having an authoritarian figure, whether it be a king, priest, or someone else. She believed every human being should be free to do what they want and shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. The Discovery of Freedom wasn’t promoted by the publisher, nor were critics impressed with it. Communists thought Rose’s ideas for personal freedom threatened their idea of socialism. At first, Rose saw no success or money. Eventually, copies of the book made it to the hands of the public, which changed the political attitude for many. Rose was now at the forefront of the Libertarian movement.

Rose despised the American Government. She had no desire to be told what to do. She raised her own food, she avoided writing so her income would not go towards income tax, and she refused to be social secured. By 1944, Rose stopped writing completely. She did not want a dime of her money going towards New Deal policies. The last decades of her life were dedicated to keeping the basic American rights and principles alive and educating the public on such matters. Rose believed Libertarianism would one day take over America.

In 1949, Almanzo Wilder passed away at the age of 92. Rose returned to Mansfield, Missouri for the funeral. Now that her mother was alone, Rose spent more time visiting Mansfield over the next eight years. Rose saw first hand the fame Laura received from her Little House books. She witnessed her mother write back every single fan who wrote her and even helped entertain fans that stopped by Rocky Ridge. Everyone wanted to know what happened to the famous family.

Rose’s life in Danbury did not slow down. She was very active in the community and entertained guests of her own who wanted to speak to her about Libertarianism. She also continued with remodeling her home and tending to her garden. After traveling and living in different places for the majority of her life, Rose finally found her home in Danbury. Apart from the time she spent visiting Laura in the Ozarks, Rose stayed at home in Connecticut. In 1956, Laura turned 89 and Rose turned 69. Rose made the trip to see her mother for Thanksgiving, but found Laura very ill with diabetes. Rose stayed with Laura in the hospital that holiday season before the both of them returned to Rocky Ridge in late December. Rose and friends hoped for Laura’s recovery, but Laura passed away on February 10, 1957. Rose was now the last one left in her family.

Rose circa 1960s

Rose Wilder Lane circa 1960s

Rose was devastated after losing her mother. She returned to Danbury, but wasn’t herself for quite sometime. She eventually fell back in to her routine of tending the garden and promoting Libertariansim. She went back to writing, publishing a few articles about needlework in Woman’s Day. She received thousands of letters praising her work. She also received the letters her mother could no longer answer. Rose did not have the time to answer every single one, so she decided to publish Laura’s diary that she kept during their journey from South Dakota to Mansfield. She titled it On the Way Home and published it in 1962.

An exciting opportunity arose for Rose when Woman’s Day wanted to send a correspondent to Vietnam and report on the war from a woman’s point of view. Despite being 79, Rose could not say no. She arrived overseas and started talking to locals about their thoughts and feelings, what they hoped for, and what they feared. She sent back an article titled “August in Vietnam” to Woman’s Day, which appeared in the December, 1965 issue. When she returned to the states, Rose gave interviews, spoke to groups, and continued writing about her experiences while overseas. As time went on, Rose realized that most of her friends and fellow writers had passed away. This gave her a new outlook on her own life. When she turned 81, Rose decided to plan a three year around the world trip to see the places she hadn’t made it to yet. One stop she wanted to make was Spain, so she started taking Spanish lessons. Fall was approaching and Rose made sure her home was ready for her to leave it. She made her famous bread and stuck it in the freezer for her friends to enjoy while she was away. The night before she was to leave, Rose spent time with her friends. Later, she bid them goodnight and went to bed, excited about the adventure that awaited her. Sadly, Rose never made it to Spain. She passed away in her sleep that night. Rose died on October 30, 1968 at the age of 81.

Rose may be gone, but her name will be remembered for years to come. Not only was she a world famous author herself but she also helped shape the books that would be read and loved by millions of children. Without Rose, Laura’s life might have been forgotten in history like so many other pioneers who worked and sacrificed to be successful. Rose Wilder Lane may not be the author we remember, but she played an instrumental part in getting the “Little House” books from being written down on paper to being published.

“The longest lives are short; our work lasts longer.” -Rose Wilder Lane

Sources:

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

 

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