A Wilder Feminism

From the June/July 2015 Print Edition

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
by laura ingalls wilder
edited by pamela smith hill
south dakota historical society, 472 pages, $39.95
The South Dakota Historical Society released Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder last fall. The book sold out in a matter of weeks. This represents an interesting turnabout. When the manuscript was first written in 1930, it was not a success. Wilder had not yet published the Little House on the Prairie series that would gain her fame. Her autobiography was rejected by a number of publishers. It was only when her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, a popular writer of juvenile fiction, reimagined and ­remarketed Pioneer Girl for a juvenile audience that it finally saw print. More a diary than a polished memoir, it follows the movements of the Ingalls family through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakota Territory. We see the local color of habit, dress, and mannerism, and learn about the events that formed the basis of her novels, which, as Wilder once wrote, constituted “not a history, but a true story founded on historical fact.” Editor Pamela Smith Hill provides extensive annotations, drawing on newspapers, census accounts, maps, and letters. Continue Reading »

The Ancients on Abortion

From the April 2014 Print Edition

Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy last semester, I hoped to cruise through the Purgatorio to make sure we completed the Paradiso by semester’s end. But my students wouldn’t let me skip canto 25—they stopped there, awestruck. I think we spent longer in the seventh cornice on the mount of purgatory than Dante did.There Statius explains to Dante the generation of the embryo, and how the embryo passes through various stages before it can be considered a rational human. Continue Reading »

Diapers and Diplomas

From the December 2013 Print Edition

Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower by mary ann mason, nicholas h. wolfinger, and marc goulden rutgers, 188 pages, $25.95 When colleagues at academic conferences marvel at the latest of my seven pregnancies, my immediate reaction—so they don’t think I am the . . . . Continue Reading »