I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books based on her childhood and young married life when I was about ten years old. A friend had them. Oddly, I don’t think my mother had read them when she was a girl, although they would have been contemporaneous with her childhood. I wished my parents would move West, build a log cabin, and settle down in the Big Woods (which I much prefered to the prairie.)
We must be into the fourth generation to read these wonderful books. My grandson would be the right age for them, although most boys even today would see them as “girls'” books, which might be one reason women have been more influenced by them than men.
The books have been translated into many languages, and the television show was very popular in Europe for years. While I found many images from the series, most of them seem to be under copyright, and I didn’t want to steal anyone’s intellectual property. I did find this trading card, though, from what was probably a publicity still. It is in Swedish.
While the Ingalls family was not Plain, they lived a very basic life for many years, as they moved West and finally settled. They were one of many families leaving the Eastern states, looking to stake a claim on some farmland. They were real homesteaders, taking advantage of the Homestead Act first passed in 1862 (after the South seceded and could no longer block its passage). The Homestead Act was intended to let people without capital start a farm, partly to keep Southern plantations from expanding West and enlarging the number of slave-owning territories, and to populate the wild lands recently cleared of Native Americans, who were being pushed onto reservation land, mostly poor quality, near-desert public holdings. Although only 40% of the homesteaders ever filed for their deed, eventually 10% of the land in the United States was claimed under the Homestead Acts. The last claim was, I believe, in 1976, in Alaska, and the deed filed in 1988. (Wikipedia article was the source for most of this information.)
It’s one of the reasons I have trouble with the word “homesteading” for living off the grid. It’s not just that one can’t file a homestead claim, but that the intention of the Homestead Act, in part, was genocide by overcrowding and starvation. (Infected blankets from Civil War hospitals were sent to the reservations to spread smallpox. That was deliberate.) The Ingalls family had some encounters with their Native American neighbours, and while those contacts were nonviolent, the family was wary of the natives. Epidemic, lack of supplies and bitter cold were their real enemies, and it is a tribute to Pa Ingall’s skills and resourcefulness, and Ma’s good management, that they survived.
I didn’t watch much of the television series. I can’t say how authentic they kept details, but the clothing and houses seemed to be in keeping with the era. (I didn’t like it that Michael Landon never grow Pa’s legendary beard.) I was certainly fond of the long dresses, aprons and sunbonnets the Ingalls girls wore, though.