21 Jun Knopf, leading to her later long?term relationship with Harper
Rose was a prodigious reader of history, politics, current events, and other subjects and had to have been aware of Turner and his thesis
The Depression certainly had some negative impacts on Wilder’s writing career: it depressed sales of her books, reduced the royalties she received, and forced the cancellation of her original contract with Alfred A. But the Depression also provided the psychological and intellectual backdrop for the books that she wrote about the frontier, emphasizing the individualistic virtues of hard work, perseverance, initiative, and industry as well as the communal values of patience, cooperation, sacrifice, and tolerance. For Wilder, as well as for her de sorts of habits and values that had conquered the frontier were capable of pulling the country out of the Depression. They both worried that excessive government paternalism, which they associated with Roosevelt’s New Deal, would undermine the sense of sturdy individualism that had made the country strong and successful in the past. The Depression, thus, was a test, and both of them feared that the New Dealers were increasing the likelihood that the country would fail it. It did not take long at Rocky Ridge for “Roosevelt” to become a dirty word. In one memorable episode in family folklore, Almanzo Wilder ran a federal farm agent off his property when the man dropped by to talk about new production quotas that Congress had enacted. The 81?year?old farmer yelled at the government man to “get the hell” off his land “and if you’re on it when I get to my gun, by God I’ll fill you with buckshot.” 7
The causes for the emergence-as well as the persistence-of the Great Depression during the 1930s invited a great deal of speculation at the time and in years since then. Among liberals and New Dealers, a large part of the explanation could be found in the disappearance of the frontier, which they connected with a decline in effective demand for the nation’s agricultural and industrial products. A young University of Wisconsin history professor named Frederick Jackson Turner had popularized the frontier thesis of American history in a paper delivered at a historical meeting during the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. -to the effects of the constantly westward?moving landed frontier. The realization that a recognizable geographical frontier was no longer present by the early 1890s hit intellectuals like Turner with the force of a bludgeon, and more than one scholarly career was made in deducing and explaining all the implications that accompanied it.
For the next four decades, the Turner Thesis held sway over historical interpretation, attributing the key characteristics of American social and economic life-individualism, democracy, nationalism, etc
Although I have come across nothing to indicate that Laura Ingalls Wilder knew about the Turner thesis or consciously tried to apply its concepts and findings in her own writing, Turner’s ideas were pervasive in the culture, and Wilder certainly was affected by the widespread fealty accorded to the importance of the frontier in American history. She shared in the assumption of the frontier’s central importance in American history and in the validity and significance of the attributes Turner associated with the frontier, such as democracy, individualism, self?reliance, initiative, and industry. Turner’s death in March 1932, erican history would come under increasingly sharp criticism from scholars during the 1940s and 1950s. But average Americans, who were more interested in figures like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and who found Turner’s sanguine interpretation of frontier influences to their liking, demonstrated a continued interest in and liking for frontier heroes whom they could identify with and look up to. Turner, who was born in 1861 and grew up in Portage, Wisconsin, just six years before and 160 miles southeast of Laura Ingalls Wilder in Pepin, on the Mississippi River, was, like her, part of a frontier generation which venerated and viscerally identified with a way of life and the kind of people that stamped their character on American civilization.