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Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman behind the Legend (Missouri Biography)

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  847 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Although generations of readers of the Little House books are familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s early life up through her first years of marriage to Almanzo Wilder, few know about her adult years. Going beyond previous studies, Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder focuses upon Wilder’s years in Missouri from 1894 to 1957. Utilizing her unpublished autobiography, letters, newsp ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 31st 1998 by University of Missouri (first published May 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,169)
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Kressel Housman
Given the classic status of the Little House series, I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that it’s become a popular topic amongst literary historians, especially in the Midwest. Two professors at the University of Missouri have taken up the question of the influence of Laura’s daughter Rose on the series. Professor William Holtz argues in his book The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane that Rose ghostwrote the series. This book, Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder, is a re ...more
Laura
Jun 16, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childhood, favorites, 2013
Contrary to some of the other reviewers, I think this a good if not great biographical reference for the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Unlike the other "Laura" biographies, this one has the most insightful historical contexts. The historical context spans all of Laura's life from her earliest days in Pepin Wisconsin, to her life in Kansas, Walnut Grove, Burr Oak, De Smet, Missouri and everywhere in between. The book tells of the people and events surrounding Laura particularly within the locatio ...more
The Book Maven
Hmmm. I am not sure what to make of this book. I guess the thing that I would tell potential readers is: be careful when you read a biography about someone you idolized. When you learn of their clay feet, it can be very disappointing.

In addition, after reading the Little House books hundreds of times, this biography seems lackluster at best. The first part of the book basically summarizes LAW's life, but offers very little that is new, particularly if you have read her books or were aware of oth
...more
Terry
Jan 14, 2008 Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I am one of those girls who obsessed over the "Little House" series of books. In fact I STILL read them, from time to time. So I must admit I read this book with a secret hope of it feeling like reading another, new, "Little House" book. It is a very interesting book, EXHAUSTIVE--sometimes to its detriment (LOTS of precise amounts of money spent on pounds of flour and percentages that certain towns grew in population between 1880 and 1910 and so on). It also makes very clear that Laura's daughte ...more
Michelle Llewellyn
Dec 29, 2010 Michelle Llewellyn rated it it was ok
If you're looking for a good read about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there are better ones out there than this one. I would recommend

Laura Ingalls Wilder: a biography by William Anderson
Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert

I felt the author's own opinion detracted from the real facts and too much focus was centered on Laura's relationship with Rose. Except for the bit about another family living with the Ingalls during the Hard Winter, Miller has nothing new to add t
...more
Beth A.
Jan 10, 2010 Beth A. rated it liked it
I loved the little house books, and really enjoyed learning more about Laura’s life and how she came to write the books. I was a bit disappointed to see the difficult relationship she had with her daughter, Rose. Much of the personal information in this book is from Rose’s perspective, because Laura didn’t journal or save records like Rose. Rose did her editing and worked for varying amounts of time -days to months- on different books. It’s funny how Rose’s writing was more famous at the time, b ...more
Tracy
Sep 20, 2012 Tracy rated it liked it
A decent biography that focuses on her daughter Rose almost as much as it does on Laura, mainly because Laura left behind very little documentation in the way of personal letters or diaries, whereas Rose left many diaries and letters behind when she died. It's a little bit frustrating, because we know factual things about Laura, but anything that hints at what her personality or thoughts were like is through the lens of Rose's perceptions of her (which were often volatile and negative). This boo ...more
Kiirsi Hellewell
Jul 17, 2015 Kiirsi Hellewell rated it liked it
This was an interesting book to read...I learned a lot about Laura and her family. That said, at times it was very dry, and there were several places where information from a previous paragraph was repeated entirely--or even contradicted in a few places. I sometimes felt fairly confused.
Kim
Jun 23, 2010 Kim rated it liked it
i'm a "Little House" freak, so naturally I liked it. Seemingly very well-researched (could this be a thesis-book?) the book was a bit dry and dull (as was life probably in early 1900), but it did paint the true picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder- a hardworking, simple farm woman with incredible strength and faith in her and her family's ability to "make it" wherever they went. Inspirational, really. If only I have half the fortitude Laura did, perhaps the age of sixty five isnt too old to become an ...more
Michelle
Sep 15, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
I actually didn't finish the book. It was interesting in the beginning as it detailed some of the differences between real life and Laura's fiction life. The book started to lose my interest once it got to the point where they relocated to Mansfield. To be fair, I don't know much about that point in Laura's life, because that is where the books stop, so that may be part of why I lost interest.
Nancy Moffett
Jul 21, 2014 Nancy Moffett rated it it was ok
This was a disappointingly dull reflection on Laura's life, which was a life full of adventure and triumph over adversity. I found the author condescending and judgmental towards the old fashioned values that gave her success. The level of control she exercised over her daughter Rose's life was imagined without any evidence other than Rose's whiny letters. I'm not convinced.
Kathy Kramer
I felt that this book did a good job of presenting the facts and presenting Laura Ingalls Wilder as a human being. I thought that this book also did a good job of showing the dynamic between Laura and her daughter Rose without taking sides. The book also presents an even-handed answer to the "authorship" question raised by William Holtz's Ghost in the Little House.
Phoebe
Apr 26, 2015 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, biography
One of the few adult biographies written about Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book does not disappoint. Miller performed patient and exacting research on his subject, and offers much intriguing information about the real Laura, whose fictionalized autobiographical works have made generations of readers feel that they "know" her. Miller tells us what was real and what was glossed over; he takes us into the Mansfield years and discusses the complex relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose. Rea ...more
Rosa Cline
The only reason I'm giving this a 2 star is because the History (non Laura) was interesting but I couldn't finish this book...couldn't even get to the "I'll give any new book at least 5 chapters or 100 pages whichever comes first before I decide to stop reading" It took me several times picking this book up and trying REALLY REALLY hard to get into it and only got to like page 60 something. All he seemed to talk about was the History of the times and the railroad during that time and the things ...more
Josephine
Oct 06, 2011 Josephine rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
With apologies to the probable majority of people reading this, for the people who haven’t heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Series: it’s a series of eight books written in the late 1930s and early 1940s about a girl growing up in the United States Midwest between 1867 and 1885, following approximately the European expansion west into what had hitherto been Native American land. The series begins with the main character’s early childhood in “the Big Woods” in Wisconsin, and follow her ...more
Zelda
Feb 22, 2009 Zelda rated it really liked it
I wavered between 3 stars and 4 stars for this one. I was somewhat annoyed by the author's handling of political and religious issues, natch. I rarely see eye-to-eye with academia on these matters.

As part of a series dedicated to Missourians the book contained more about Missouri history than was ideal for someone not as in interested in that topic. Not that it wasn't interesting or apropos. Just a warning to others. One could certainly skim those parts without losing the thread of the story.

Th
...more
Hayley
Apr 08, 2014 Hayley rated it liked it
Interesting. Sometimes repetitive. Sprinkled with speculations and assumptions not supported with evidence (wish specific letters, articles, journal entries, etc. were quoted or paraphrased in these instances). Fun to see overarching historical backdrop of time during which series is set. My favorite parts were the anecdotes, I liked hearing about Almanzo. I grew up reading/loving this series and plan to reread them now :)
Suzan Michet
May 07, 2015 Suzan Michet rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Little House on the Prairie fans
Recommended to Suzan by: Got it at the library.
Fascinating read if you loved the Little House on the Prairie series ... this book digs deeper and goes into all that Laura left out (and why), plus her life after the series ended. Well foot-noted and referenced. Sometimes a little dry/academic, but enlightening on the relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose.
Kathy Rogers
Feb 04, 2014 Kathy Rogers rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Surprisingly good. I usually quit biographies part way through and this one I more or less finished. (I did skim through the politics and social history sections.) Despite the authors' claims that the Little House books were not biographies, it was fun to draw correlations between the lives the Ingalls and Wilders and the books themselves.
Teresa
Aug 30, 2009 Teresa rated it it was amazing
Having grown up with the "Little House" books and loving them immensely, I was very happy to find such a great biographical work on her life. I learned so much about the real Laura, and about Rose and Almonzo, too.

Growing up, I had no idea that parts of the novels were embellished or otherwise changed to make them more palatable to readers (hence making them fiction). I also never had any idea that Rose (Laura and Almonzo's only child) helped write the beloved series of novels; by prodding Laura
...more
Nathan
May 24, 2015 Nathan rated it liked it
i liked the authors approach to the subject. it is unfortunate that much of what there is to learn must come from the less objective view of Laura"s daughter Rose. However, learning about Rose was also interesting. I certainly learned more about the life and times including statistics of the communities that were settled near, as well as news of the day. Very good research and presentation.
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I'm fascinated with LIW, especially this (relatively) new scholarship I've discovered on her. I have really enjoyed learning about her partnership with her daughter to write the books, her daughter's sense that her life has been a wasted failure (because she didn't consider that the work she did on her mother's books "counted" for anything). It's been fascinating to see how LIW flourished as she aged. And I think part of the charm is that the essential Laura-ness of her is still not captured -- ...more
Courtney
May 27, 2014 Courtney rated it it was ok
Not the best Laura Ingalls Wilder bio I've ever read, but it does give more insight into her relationship with her daughter. Very "academically" written, I think.
Curlita
Mar 16, 2007 Curlita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
I read all the LIW books as a kid, and as an adult read a book about her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. The bio of Rose Wilder Lane puts forth the theory that Lane basically ghost-wrote the Little House books. I really liked Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder because it 1) told the story of Wilder's life (which often differed from the fictionalized version she wrote for children) and 2) presented a more balanced description of how Lane and her mother collaborated on the books. There was a lot of extrane ...more
Sallie
Nov 11, 2008 Sallie rated it liked it
Shelves: bios
I finished! Not, IMHO, an inspiring biography of LIW. I decided early on it was/is? a basically Joe Friday kind of bio - just the facts ma'am. Too much of Rose and her ups and downs and conflicts with Laura for me. I understand Rose helped Laura a lot with her books and getting them published only happened because Rose knew who to contact to get a reading, BUT.. she irritated me totally. I think I'll look around for other bios of LIW to see what else has been written that might bring her more al ...more
Helena
Aug 28, 2015 Helena rated it liked it
I have to say, I was surprised at how much of a role Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, played in the writing, editing, and publishing of the Little House books. I'm not sorry I read this, but I will say that it changed the way I viewed Laura Ingalls Wilder a bit, as my previous view of her was drawn only from the Little House books. I knew they were works of fiction, but they are autobiographical to a certain extent, and I think in my mind the book Laura and the author Laura were basically the ...more
Marilyn Ostermiller
Sep 09, 2014 Marilyn Ostermiller rated it really liked it
Fascinating tale of how Laura Ingalls Wilder became the celebrated children's book writer in collaboration with her daughter, Rose. If you are curious about what it was like to homestead on the prairie that became Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, this will interest you. This detailed biography will take you inside the culture of a prairie town, what people ate, what they did for entertainment and how they tamed the land.
Jo Mclennan
Mar 13, 2008 Jo Mclennan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All those little girls who grew up dreaming of living in a little house in the big woods...
An interesting account of the suprisingly not very interesting life of Laura after she moved to Missouri with her husband. Most of the book revolves around her often stormy relationship with her only daughter, but the author assumes that people already have a working knowledge of Rose Wilder Lane's story. He often refers to future events or refers back to previous events in her life in a way I found confusing. And he ends abruptly at Laura's death and fails to finish off the book with any summar ...more
Judy
Apr 13, 2015 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been awhile since I revisited The Little House books so this was a nice read in that it refreshed my memory of them, reminded me how much I liked them, and added in a few other new tidbits to boot. I understand that there is some question on how much Laura's daughter Rose wrote or influenced these books and the latter half of this book mostly read like a dissertation "proving" the author's opinion. While it was interesting enough to read about Laura and Rose's interactions with each other I ...more
Emily
Jun 19, 2015 Emily rated it liked it
The thing about a Laura Ingalls Wilder biography is that the most interesting parts of her life she wrote about herself in the Little House series. The rest has to be gleaned from her daughter Rose's letters and journals, and is far less interesting. I enjoyed knowing what happened to Laura, Almanzo, Rose, and the rest of the Ingalls family, but for the most part they just went on with their lives.

It took me three tries over 8 years to read this book and I'm glad it finally stuck. But it's not o
...more
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