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Episode 52. The Little House Like You've Never Heard with Natalie Franke

podcast Nov 10, 2021

In this episode, Sharon is joined by Natalie Franke, founder of the Rising Tide Society and author of the new book “Built to Belong”, to learn about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” children's book series. Chronicling the life of a pioneer family living on the prairies in the Midwest during the great westward expansion, the “Little House” series is a children’s book collection that was later adapted into a popular television series and was first published in 1932. It is estimated that the Little House franchise is worth over $100 million today. Listen to learn more about which family member was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ghostwriter for the series, the little known adult life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, how the Wilder family was connected to the rise of libertarianism in the United States, and who owns the copyright to the “Little House” series in 2021. 

Links to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You: 

  • What did remote work in the 1920s look like? 
  • Who was the mother of libertarian politics? 
  • How did the 1929 stock market crash inspire Laura Ingalls Wilder?
  • The stories the “Little House” series couldn’t share with children
  • Subtle political themes in the “Little House” books you may not have noticed 
  • How many of your favorite memoirs have ghostwriters? 

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • The “Little House'' children's book series is comprised of nine unique stories about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life as the child of pioneers from 1870-1894. While the series is an autobiographical account of Laura’s childhood, it remains widely unknown that her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was the series ghostwriter, working in collaboration with her mother. Rose Wilder Lane was a wildly successful writer who contributed articles to Cosmopolitan Magazine and was hired to write biographies for prominent national leaders, including Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford, and Charlie Chaplin. After reading a few short stories penned by her mother about her childhood, Rose encouraged Laura to write a formal book and helped her get the manuscript introduced to publishers. 
  • Leaving off shortly after her marriage to Almanzo Wilder, little is known about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s later adult life. Laura and Almanzo faced years of challenges early on in their marriage that would set the stage for a life in poverty. Within a few years, Laura and Almonzo lost three seasons of crops, caught diphtheria which caused Almonzo to suffer a stroke, saw their house burn down in an accidental fire, and had to move into the city to make a living on odd jobs. During this time, Laura Ingalls Wilder started her career as a writer, publishing articles about leghorn chickens under a male surname. Their daughter, however, became ashamed of the constant cycle of poverty they faced and eventually moved to Louisiana to live with an aunt at age 15. 
  • The making of the “Little House” book series was complicated. Laura Ingalls Wilder first recounted her childhood through a single 400-page memoir titled “The Pioneer Girl,” through a first-person narrative. However, publishers quickly turned her away due to lack of interest, and her daughter, Rose, inspired her to reframe the format of the story into a children’s novel series told from a third-person perspective. In order to do so, they wrote to all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s living family members around the country and asked for any memories they may recall to help supplement the development of the books. The first book of the series, “Little House in the Big Woods,” was a smashing success and led to seven more series editions. 

About the guest:

As seen in Forbes, NPR, Bustle, and The New York Times, Natalie Franke is an entrepreneur and the founder of the Rising Tide Society dedicated to coaching small business owners to fight for the community over competition. Her new book  “Built to Belong: Discovering the Power of Community Over Competition” addresses the competition and comparison we confront every day and how we can rise above by fostering relationships instead of being pitted against one another.

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