Meet Our New Intern


The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society welcomes Whitney as their summer intern. Whitney grew up in southern Illinois, but currently resides in middle Tennessee. Some of the projects she will  be working on include: maintaining the social media for the Society, helping with special events, giving tours, and learning about the inner workings of a museum. Whitney will spend 12 weeks here in De Smet, SD.

Whitney was first introduced to Laura’s story in fourth grade. Her class was learning about pioneers and her teacher decided to show the Little House on the Prairie movie. Whitney was fascinated with Laura and her life, that she went home and begged her mom to buy her the first season of the television series. Eventually, after buying all ten seasons and binge watching them, Whitney discovered the “Little House” book series. Then, she begged her parents to go to the bookstore so she could buy the books. During the next few years Whitney would research and read about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life. She found Laura to be an inspiration. This woman had gone through so many hardships, but still managed to look on the bright side of things. One of Whitney’s favorite quotes of Wilder’s only proves how strong of a women she was:

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”  -Laura Ingalls Wilder

As Whitney got older she still had a love for Laura. She continued to read about her life. Two of her favorite books to read about Wilder are Pioneer Girl, Laura’s unpublished autobiography, and Caroline Fraser’s new book, Prairie Fires. Three years ago Whitney saw that the museum in De Smet offered a summer internship. Since then she has worked towards the goal of getting that internship. After two years of college, Whitney was able to apply for the internship. To her excitement she was offered the position and arrived in De Smet about three weeks later.

What book of Laura’s is your favorite and why?

I would have to say my favorite book is These Happy Golden Years. I thought it was interesting to see how Laura grew up and started seeing things differently. She was only fifteen when she started teaching and moved away from her family for the first time. It was a big adjustment for her at such a young age. I’m a sucker for romance novels so I loved reading about Laura and Almanzo’s simple and sweet love story. Laura was completely naive when it came to Almanzo’s intentions, but luckily she saw them in time and the two got married. I liked how the book ended on a happy note and came full circle. I started watching the TV series and reading the books at a young age and was able to grow up with her.

What is your favorite historical building at the Museum?

I really like the First School of De Smet. The building had been turned into a residential home. When the Society was able to purchase it we found that it still held a lot of historical value. Behind the layers of wallpaper we found the original blackboards. I have always loved history so original blackboards and floors are very interesting to me. The school holds a lot of history about Laura and the people who have lived there so I really enjoy sharing with my tour groups.

What book about Laura’s life and legacy is your favorite?

I recently read, Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser and really enjoyed it. It is by far the most in depth biography I have read about Laura and her daughter Rose. I am always wanting to learn more about Laura and her life and this book was filled with details that I didn’t know about beforehand. It went into a lot of detail about the relationship between mother and daughter and how it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I would recommend this book to any Laura fan. It is a book you will want to read more than once.


Rose Wilder Lane’s San Francisco Home

For years as a tour guide in Burr Oak, IA, Laura Ingalls Wilder fans had shared stories with me about their own “Little House” site adventures. As a child, it was a goal of mine to visit each of the well-known sites which I accomplished back in 2012. After years of hearing visitors’ stories about their experiences at some of the lesser known sites the family lived at, such as Westville, Florida; Cuba, New York; Danbury, Connecticut, etc., I decided to start a new goal. This fall I finally had the opportunity to visit San Francisco and see Rose Wilder Lane’s home.

Rose Wilder moved to San Francisco in 1908 and married Claire Gillette Lane on March 24, 1909. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1918; they had no surviving children.

In 1915, Laura Ingalls Wilder, visited San Francisco, California, to spend time with her daughter who was a reporter for The Bulletin, a local newspaper. Wilder wrote letters home to her husband, Almanzo, describing her time in California and her experiences at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, aka The World’s Fair. These letters were later complied into the book, West from Home.

During this time, Rose and her husband lived in a neighborhood called Russian Hill, which was a part of its original “Seven Hills of San Francisco.” Russian Hill is located just north of Nob Hill and south of Fisherman’s Wharf. Many people know Russian Hill from one of its famous streets, Lombard Street, which is considered the most crooked street in the world.

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The home of Rose Wilder Lane around 1915.
1019 Vallejo Street, San Francisco, CA.

In 1906, an earthquake and fire destroyed some of the neighborhood. Over time, the goat path was replaced with a terraced stairway and today, as you descend the stairs to Taylor Street you will find a small park sits at the top of the hill on Vallejo Street.  The Russian Government dedicated a plaque in the park, in honor of the men who were buried on Russian Hill.

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Russian Government’s plaque in honor of the men buried here.


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A close up of the English side of the plaque.

During my visit to San Francisco, I was able to see Rose’s home and enjoy the park. Visitors may enjoy views from several directions including, the east bay area with the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and Alcatraz. Other notable residents of the neighborhood include several writers: Stewart Alsop II, Gelett Burgess, Neil Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Mayor Gavin Newsom.

view from roses home

The view from Rose’s home looking at the East Bay Area.

Read more about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s experience in San Francisco: 

For more information about Rose’s home visit:

For more information about Laura at the Panama Pacific International Exposition visit:


Meet Our New Summer Intern

Q: Which do you prefer, coffee or tea?

A: Trader Joe’s chai tea (with lots of honey)

Q: What are three words that describe you?

A: I’m a… joyful, gentle bookworm

Q: What is one random fact about you?

A: The Memorial Society is a 15 hour drive from the place where I grew up in central Michigan and about 13 hours from where I attend school at Hillsdale College in southern Michigan. So life on the Dakota prairies is a new thing for me! The only other time I’ve been out here was about twelve years ago when my family and I were doing our own whirlwind tour of the Laura sites. I was nine during that trip.


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Leah age 9 Burr Oak, Iowa

Q: What is your role at the Historic Homes (e.g. tour guide, director)?

A: I’m the summer intern! This summer, I will be on site giving tours, assisting in the gift shop, writing for the blog, and managing social media.

Q: How long have you been working at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society?

A: I just started work on the 25th of May. So I’m brand new around here.

Q: Which book in the Little House Series is your favorite? Why?

A: As a child, my favorite Little House book was On the Banks of Plum Creek, but I think that These Happy Golden Years is my current favorite. After all of the kitschy romantic comedies in theaters and cliché love triangles in today’s YA literature, it’s refreshing to read about Laura and Almanzo’s simple and adorable romance. I appreciate how patient and quiet Almanzo is during their courtship, even though Laura doesn’t seem to know what’s going on half the time.

Q: Which book about Laura’s life and legacy is your favorite? Why?

A: I took a class on Laura Ingalls Wilder at Hillsdale last semester, and, at the beginning of the class, my professor assigned to us Laura’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography edited by Pamela Smith Hill. If autobiographies count, I’d say my favorite book about Laura is Pioneer Girl because I loved hearing about Laura’s life in her own words. She truly is a talented writer, and some of her descriptive passages are absolutely stunning. If that doesn’t count, though, I’d say Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life by Pamela Smith Hill is my favorite. Hill talks a lot about Laura’s life after the events described in the books and also focuses on the inspiration for the series and the process of writing and editing that Laura went through. As an English major, I found the information about the writing process especially interesting.

Q: What projects are you excited about working on right now?

A: I’m in charge of the Memorial Society blog this summer, and I have enjoyed brainstorming topics and themes to write about. Right now, I’m most excited about a set of Little House birthday-themed blog posts that I’m putting together as celebration for Laura’s 150th birthday next February. I’m also working on a series of posts exploring the literature of the Little House books. I’ve been in contact with my professor back at Hillsdale College who taught my class on Wilder, and I’ve enjoyed consulting with her.


Leah- Summer Intern

Q: Which of the historic buildings on the Historic Homes Tour is your favorite? Why?

A: It’s a close tie between the Surveyors’ House and the Ingalls Home, but I think I have to go with the Ingalls Home. I always enjoy giving that part of the tour because the information I get to share is not stuff that people would know from just reading the Little House series. In fact, I didn’t know most of the information that I share in that house before coming here. I also like the house because it makes me happy for Ma to think that she was able to end her life in such a nice place after having to live in shanties and dugouts for so many years. As a whole, the house really is beautiful. I especially like the cupboards in the kitchen that Pa built for Ma.

Q: If you were giving a tour of the Historic Homes and only had time to show visitors two artifacts, which two would they be?

A: I’d probably show them the chest of drawers upstairs in the Surveyors’ House first. I like that artifact a lot because it was actually owned by the Ingalls family. Also, it’s kind of tucked away, so it’s not something that someone would really notice on their own.

I guess the other artifact-like thing that I’d really want to show people would be the chalk drawings on the wall in the First School of De Smet. I just think it’s so cool that the chalkboards are still there—even though the people who used the building as a residence changed the building a lot and even put wallpaper over the chalkboards. Finding those chalkboards and the drawings on them behind the wallpaper was probably like unearthing a dinosaur fossil during an archaeological dig. I would have loved to have been there when they found them.

Q: How does Laura or Laura’s legacy inspire you?

A: I am really inspired by how much Laura valued her family—especially her parents—and the way her legacy reminds all of us to make the most of the little things in life. Reading her books again as a twenty-one year-old helped me to recognize how rare and beautiful Laura’s strong family relationships are. Seeing how much influence her parents had on her development as an individual reminds me how important it is for us to encourage parents as they raise their children and to help families thrive. Also, her books help me remember to appreciate the everyday things of life, even though they might seem mundane. As Laura’s own stories show, there are treasures to be found in even the simplest of moments.

Get an inside look at “The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder”

The long wait for The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is almost over. March 8th is the official release date and pre-orders are already being taken. This is your chance to be one of the first to own this amazing book!

Pre-orders can be made by emailing with your contact information or by calling 800-880-3383.

As a bonus, the first 100 customers will receive a signed bookplate!!

$26.99 plus shipping and handling

William Anderson’s newest book contains a remarkable collection of nearly four hundred letters written by Laura, offering a never-before-seen glimpse of her life, work and relationships between family, friends and fans from 1894-1956. Plus, Anderson includes annotations to describe the occasion surrounding the letters, their recipients and issues of concern that Laura had at the time she wrote her beloved Little House series.


You may ask, what’s all the fuss about?

Ingalls – Wilder biographer, William Anderson, has opened a new door of discovery for Laura fans. This book provides readers with a new and deeper understanding of one of America’s most influential children’s author’s life and work.


Really, the letters are a never-before-seen collection?

Yes, 99% of the letters have never been seen by the public, but who could blame you as no one thought that after the nationally raved book, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography edited by Pamela Smith Hill, there would be even more information available to us. Well, at least not this early.

Anderson includes a few letters from his book, West from Home, which offer letters from Laura’s trip to San Francisco where she visited her daughter, Rose. Other letters in the collection have been keepsakes of the families who received them, or in archives and libraries all over the United States.

A year ago, the South Dakota Historical Society Press released Pioneer Girl and fans still can’t stop talking about it. Whether it is by word of mouth, email, phone, or Facebook, people continue to tell us that it’s “simply amazing!” Well, here’s some good news-the fun isn’t over yet! The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder is another great addition to our favorite books about Laura.

These letters allow readers a first-hand glimpse of Laura’s thoughts and feelings over a variety of topics. Plus, her love for family is unmistakable and her devotion to young fans is genuine.


William Anderson tells us:

“We are again able to hear Laura’s voice in these letters, and learn more of the background of her family in Kingsbury County. This book really had its start during my years of working with the Memorial Society. As the collector of artifacts for the Society to exhibit, I learned that people felt De Smet was the place to entrust their original Wilder letters. Our tourists shared the circumstances surrounding their Wilder letters. Everyone beamed as they told of the excitement in opening a letter from the “real” Laura. I have often thought: almost every person has a Wilder story to tell!

The three founders of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, Aubrey Sherwood, Vera McCaskell and Alice Kirchmeier, each corresponded with Laura. Evidentially their prized letters were given to the Society. Laura also exchanged letters with other De Smet, SD folks, and they are included in the new book.

It took eight months to see this project through. It was a major job organizing the letters, checking their internal references, performing light edits, and composing introductions to many of the letters. Because Laura’s responses to her readers often answered similar questions, I included just a sampling of this genre.

To my knowledge, this could be the final book consisting of Laura’s unpublished words. Unless there is some major and undiscovered source of her writing, her letters may be our last chance to better know the “real” Laura Ingalls Wilder. What a wonderful literary legacy this South Dakota writer has left!”

Wish List for 2016

A slew of new projects are developing at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society as we begin the new year, from expanding our educational programs to providing new displays in our exhibit room.

Last year, a generous donor saw our need for animal pelts and helped purchase 25 of them to use as a hands-on activity called, “Hunting with Pa.”  Every year, we have an average of 30 classes vist the Society.


Student shows off one of our many pelts, the grey fox.



Our new program, “Hunting with Pa,” allows students to identify the animal pelts and make their own track.

Director’s note: “2016 has only just begun and the Society already has many projects planned for the coming year.  At the moment, I am creating new signs to display in the Brewster’s school to better inform visitors about one-room schoolhouses in the mid-1800s.  In addition, I plan to expand our exhibit room by displaying more original Ingalls-Wilder artifacts and including more information on De Smet, SD and traveling westward.”


Inside the Brewster’s school.

The Society has identified specific museum needs and has developed a wish list, as shown below.  These are items we need to expand our exhibits and educational programs so we may better serve the needs of our visitors.

Wish List Items:

Education Program Needs:

  • Classroom presentation supplies $250
  • Braille Slates $300
red fox track

Red Fox Track

Ingalls Home Needs:

  • One outdoor security light $1,500

 Exhibit Needs:

  • Exhibit signage and display cases $5,000

In 2016, our goal is to display more artifacts in our exhibit room. Two years ago, we were able to purchase numerous Garth Williams illustrations and our next step is displaying them for our visitors to enjoy.

 Park Needs:

  • House demolition to expand our park area $2,000

Archival Needs:

  • A new computer scanner and printer $1,000
  • Acid free archival supplies $150 or less

Archives Room

 Visitor Center Needs:

  • Landscape – Trim trees and spread bark $1,200
  • Leaf blower $150
  • Electric hedge trimmer $150

We hope you will help us preserve Laura’s historic homes and share our history by donating to our wish list.

As always, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society is grateful for your generosity and we accept support at all levels.  Remember: all donations are tax deductible!

For questions or to make a donation:

Call us at 1-800-880-3383

Click to visit our website.

Mission Statement: “Bringing the Laura Ingalls Wilder legacy to life today while preserving it for the future.”