Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $5.11
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 89%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $5.11   
  • New (3) from $41.77   
  • Used (14) from $5.11   


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 Utilizing her unpublished autobiography, letters, newspaper stories, and other documentary evidence, John E. Miller fills the gaps in Wilder’s autobiographical novels and describes her sixty-three years of living in Mansfield, Missouri. As a result, the process of personal development that culminated in Wilder’s writing of the novels that secured her reputation as one of America’s most popular children’s authors becomes evident.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It takes Miller one-third of this fact-clogged biography to start showing Laura Ingalls Wilder as "the woman behind the legend," but when he finally does, the picture is fascinating. Wilder, whose seven semiautobiographical 'Little House on the Prairie' books have been read by millions and inspired a television series, was a bossy wife, a penny-pincher who once protested her power company's rates by having her electricity shut off and a political right-winger. By far the most absorbing aspect of Miller's book is the story of Wilder's relationship with her only child. Rose Wilder Lane was a childless divorce and an established writer by the time her mother began writing novels at age 63, and she edited her mother's books and got her agent to handle them. Miller draws heavily on Lane's diaries and letters, which often contain diatribes against a mother she alternately loved and resented. But while Wilder left no personal papers presenting her side, Miller seems to paint a balanced portrait. He's not so balanced elsewhere, and in an effort to contextualize his subject, he often presents reams of redundant or unnecessary political, geographical and cultural details that bog down what is otherwise a very interesting story.
Kirkus Reviews
A biography of the author of 'The Little House on the Prairie' series that comes to life only in the recounting of the stormy relationship between Wilder and her daughter. Those fictionalized accounts of Wilder's turn-of-the-century girlhood on the rural frontier are accurate both in spirit and largely in fact. The first part of this biography reruns those years in numbing detail, but Miller (South Dakota State Univ.) picks up the pace when he begins to examine the controversy about who really wrote the series, Wilder or her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Rose Lane was an established writer and editor living in San Francisco when she began to encourage her mother to write. Wilder and her husband were then eking out a living on a Missouri farm, and Rose saw her mother's writing as a potential source of income. Wilder began with a series of columns for a local newspaper and finally a manuscript of reminiscence. By then, Rose was living on the Missouri farm and worked closely with her mother to get the book in shape. Rose continued to manage and guide both Wilder's career and subsequent manuscriptsþso closely, some critics have said, that they were really Rose's books. Drawing on correspondence between mother and daughter and other sources, Miller concludes that Wilder was a talented writer in her own right and that her daughter acted as a skilled editor and writing coach, although rewriting limited sections of her mother's work. Wilder was 65 years old when her first book was published in 1932, 90 when she died, already a favorite of several generations of children. Her daughter died a few years later. Rose emerges as a conflicted and intriguing character, but this biography remainsbest suited for historians and adults who are still hard-core Wilder fans.
From the Publisher
“[Miller] draws on Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, existing letters written to her daughter and to her husband on the few occasions she traveled without him, and her fiction and ‘newspaper stories, local histories, land records,’ which he mines to create an impressively detailed context for her life. . . . Miller does not try to make her any more--or less--than she was, and that is the virtue of his biography.”--Washington Post Book World

“John E. Miller’s scrupulous new biography of Wilder is a valuable and absorbing book.” -Ann Romines, Great Plains Quarterly

“Miller’s thorough, riveting, work illuminates a complex process of authorship, and the mother and daughter behind it.” -Jane St. Anthony, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“…An enjoyable portrait of a fascinating personality and her time.” -Jo Ellen Heil, Ventura County Star

“Shedding new light on this remarkable woman, Miller demonstrates that Wilder’s entire life was a process of becoming the woman we know as the beloved children’s author.” -Robert H. Ferrell, American Bookseller

“Miller’s absorbing new biography . . . puts the author’s early years in context before focusing on her adult life as a farmer’s wife, mother, journalist and budding author. . . . Miller uncovers facts about Laura’s life that were not revealed in her own work, and he places her experience in a broader context. He makes her days on the frontier and the farm come alive with statistics on population and demographics as well as rich details about Indians and wildlife.”--In These Times

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826211675
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Pages: 306
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John E. Miller is a writer and historian who taught American history for three decades at South Dakota State University. He is the author of several books, including Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town: Where History and Literature Meet and Looking for History on Highway 14. He resides in Brookings, South Dakota.

The Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2000



    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)