West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915

( 8 )


"It is like a fairyland." So Laura Ingalls Wilder described her 1915 voyage to San Francisco to visit her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Laura's husband, Almanzo, was unable to leave their Missouri farm and it is her faithful letters home, vividly describing every detail of her journey, that have been gathered here. Includes 24 pages of exciting photographs and completely redesigned jacket art.

A selection of letters by Laura Ingalls Wilder to her husband in which she describes the highlights of her ...

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"It is like a fairyland." So Laura Ingalls Wilder described her 1915 voyage to San Francisco to visit her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Laura's husband, Almanzo, was unable to leave their Missouri farm and it is her faithful letters home, vividly describing every detail of her journey, that have been gathered here. Includes 24 pages of exciting photographs and completely redesigned jacket art.

A selection of letters by Laura Ingalls Wilder to her husband in which she describes the highlights of her visit to the west coast in 1915.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064400817
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1976
  • Series: Little House Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 140,808
  • Age range: 8 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 1140L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 in the log cabin described in Little House in the Big Woods. She and her family traveled by covered wagon across the Midwest. Later, Laura and her husband, Almanzo Wilder, made their own covered-wagon trip with their daughter, Rose, to Mansfield, Missouri. There, believing in the importance of knowing where you began in order to appreciate how far you've come, Laura wrote about her childhood growing up on the American frontier. For millions of readers Laura lives on forever as the little pioneer girl in the beloved Little House books.


"I wanted the children now to understand more about the beginnings of things, to know what is behind the things they see -- what it is that made America as they know it," Laura Ingalls Wilder once said. Wilder was born in 1867, more than 60 years before she began writing her autobiographical fiction, and had witnessed the transformation of the American frontier from a barely populated patchwork of homestead lots to a bustling society of towns, trains and telephones.

Early pictures of Laura Ingalls show a young woman in a buttoned, stiff-collared dress, but there's nothing prim or quaint about the childhood she memorialized in her Little House books. Along with the expected privations of prairie life, the Ingalls family faced droughts, fires, blizzards, bears and grasshopper plagues. Although she didn't graduate from high school, Wilder had enough schooling to get a teaching license, and took her first teaching job at the age of 15.

Later, Wilder and her husband settled on a farm in the Missouri Ozarks, where Wilder began writing about farm life for newspapers and magazines. She didn't try her hand at books until 1930, when she started chronicling her childhood at the urging of her daughter Rose. Her first effort at an autobiography, Pioneer Girl, failed to find a publisher, but it spurred a second effort, a set of eight "historical novels," as Wilder called them, based on her own life.

Little House in the Big Woods (1932) was an instant hit. It was followed by a new volume every two years or so, and the series' success snowballed until thousands of fans were waiting eagerly for each new installment. "Ms. Wilder has caught the very essence of pioneer life, the satisfaction of hard work, the thrill of accomplishment, safety and comfort made possible through resourcefulness and exertion," said the New York Times review of Little House on the Prairie (1935).

In 1954, the American Library Association established the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to honor the lifetime achievement of a children's author or illustrator; Wilder herself was the first recipient. After Wilder's death in 1957, historical societies sprang up to preserve what they could of her childhood homes, and her manuscripts and journals provided the material for several more books. A TV series based on the books, Little House on the Prairie, ran from 1974 to 1984 and renewed interest in Wilder's work and life. More recently, fictionalized biographies of her daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother have appeared.

Wilder's books have now been translated into over 40 languages, and still provide an engrossing history lesson for young readers, as well as insight into the frontier values that Wilder once catalogued as "courage, self-reliance, independence, integrity and helpfulness" -- values, in her words, worth "as much today as they ever were to help us over the rough places."

Good To Know

Wilder's daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane, helped revise her mother's books; the collaboration was so extensive that one biographer proposed Rose was the "real" author of the Little House books. Most agree that Rose was, if not author or co-author, instrumental in suggesting the project to her mother and shaping it for publication.

After her books were published, fan mail for Wilder poured in; among more than a thousand cards and gifts she received for her birthday in 1951 was a cablegram of congratulations from General Douglas MacArthur.

Wilder, who had grown up making long journeys by covered wagon, took her first airplane ride at the age of 87, on a visit to Rose in Danbury, Connecticut.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mrs. A.J. Wilder
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1867
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pepin, Wisconsin
    1. Date of Death:
      February 10, 1957
    2. Place of Death:
      Mansfield, Missouri

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

In the spring of 1915 Laura's only daughter Rose wrote to her on the stationery of the newspaper for which she was a reporter

The Bulletin
San Francisco, Calif

Mrs. A. J. Wilder
Rocky Ridge Farm
Mansfield, Missouri

Dearest Mama Bess--

I simply can't stand being so homesick for you any more.

You must plan to come out here in July or, at latest, August. You've simply GOT to, so let me hear no argument about it. I know how you felt about being disappointed before, because I felt every bit as bad, I guess badder, because I was terribly disappointed for myself and twice as disappointed for you, and sore besides because I could not manage better. But this time I am quite sure it can be managed. Unless something very catastrophic happens, like war, or another earthquake, or something.

It won't be as I planned to have you out, because we haven't the machine [automobile] now, and both Gillette [Rose's husband] and I are working, and there isn't so awfully much money. But we can have a pleasant time together, anyway. You can see San Francisco and the Fair, and meet my friends, and we can play together all the time that I'm not working. I have worked this job into a sort of movable feast, so that I don't have to be in the office any regular hours, and you can go with me on lots of my outside work -- I can arrange for you to have an aeroplane flight if you like, and we can eat in all the little interesting restaurants.

I have it figured out that sometime in July I will be able to send you the fare, and while you are here and maybe right along afterward I can send you $5 a week to make up forwhat you will lose in chickens, etc., by the trip. I should think by that time all the little ones would be out of the way, and there wouldn't be so much work with them. The strawberries will be gone, and the pressure of work won't be so bad. You will miss most of the very hot weather, too.

I think by getting away from it all for awhile, and playing around with a bunch of people who are writing and drawing and otherwise being near-artists, you will get an entirely new viewpoint on things there, and be able to see a lot of new things to write when you go back. If the farm-paper market is closed, there are scads of other markets open. I got an invitation to submit stories to an eastern magazine the other day which I could turn over to you. I haven't time to write for it myself -- it is only a little magazine, but would probably pay $50 or so for a story. When you get things to running so that the farm work won't take up so much time you can do things like that. And with the notes and mortgages paid off and your lovely home all built, you and Papa can take things easier. Next year you can maybe get off and make a little trip together to Louisiana or someplace. The way it looks to me, there are only the debts to clear off and you will have a self-supporting home and can use the little extra sums -- the bunches of money, like from the apples or strawberries -- that come in, to play with.

Anyway, please plan to come out here in July or August, and get the work in shape so you can leave it for three months.

Don't get any new clothes, because we can get those here, except underwear. Suits and things are as cheap here as there, and perhaps the styles would be different-we can get things in a few days from the shops, and then when you go back your things will all be new to the people there. Bring warm things, because it will be cool here-you will wear a suit all the time except in the evening, and probably most of the time then-we don't dress up in the evening except on a rare occasion like a box-party, or something. I have a wonderful dressmaker, who can whip things into shape and astonish you, so don't bother making over anything, just bring it along. I was thinking maybe your rose silk would be pretty with a black lace over it and some coral beads. If you get anything, get some shoes and slippers from Sears Roebuck -- they cost out of sight here. Don't bring any extra hats, because by July everyone here will be- wearing fall hats and we can get one here. Bring your furs and warm underwear and gloves and shoes, that's all.

I will not talk much about what we will do, because then you will be disappointed when you get here. But we can visit, and play around in Chinatown together some, and you can meet the people I know, and have an aeroplane flight. And you can get acquainted with San Francisco.. I am glad you are from the Ozarks, because everything is hills here. It will be foggy and windy and dusty and gray and you will not like San Francisco while you are here, and then when you go away you will always want to come back. 'Tis ever thus. If you like you shall eat an octopus. I promise that.

What do you think of the Art Smith story? It is going fairly well. What do you think of the "Confessions of a Physician"? I think it is awful rot, myself, but the whole Bulletin staff thinks it is splendid stuff. I don't know that anyone else does. I will probably be back on the staff of Bessie's [women's] page sometime in June. I don't mind, it is a soft snap. I will write her another story and loaf all the time.

With much love,
West from Home. Copyright © by Laura Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 10, 2009

    Loved it!

    If you are nostalgic for a simpler time, this book is a wonderful glimpse into the past. Laura visits her daughter in San Francisco during the 1915 World's Fair. She chronicles her train ride there, her frequent visits to the Fair, and some letters to Almonzo. The book also includes black and white photos of the Fair, Laura, and the Golden Gate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009


    This book of letters was so terrible I couldn't finish it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2005

    Very Interesting!

    These letters of her trip to the World's Fair and her her diary of her trip from Dekota to Missouri (On the Way Home) are wonderfully informative to the point of what they are, letters and a diary. What wonderful reads they could have been had she taken them herself to make books of them. How she could have fleshed them out to further charm and inform us is only a dream now. Would that she could have known what a gold mine she had stuck away in storage boxes. But, alas, as she said, 'Never complain of what you have.' We can be thankful for the bounty she has given us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2003

    Answers to the Questions

    This book is good, but the other reviewer is wrong, Laura did not have to worry about becoming an old maid. Think of all the men who wanted rides with her in Happy Golden Years. You can tell she really loved Almanzo and if you dont think so pick up the books and read them all again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2003

    Laura the Adult

    As a child I read about Laura as a child and now as an adult I see what she thought of Rose and Rose's husband - who seems to be a cad and not pulling his weight. I want to know why did Laura marry Almanzo an older man? How did Almanzo go from a rich young man to an impoverished husband? Did Laura love him or was she jealous of Nellie Olsen? Was Laura afraid of becoming an old maid? The letters add more questions than they answer - why did sister Mary go to colege and then not work or marry even if she was blind? How did Pa and Almanzo survive failure after failure and disappointment after disappointment? It was a fascinating trip into the mind of a young girl who was fun loving to a very different woman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2002

    It was great

    I liked it alot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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