This week’s Women’s History Month post shines a spotlight on the life of Rose Wilder Lane.
Rose Wilder Lane was born in De Smet in the Dakota Territory in 1886. You have probably heard of her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the famous pioneer and author of the Little House on the Prairie books, which document the adventures of the Ingalls family across the American frontier.
Lane’s pioneer upbringing had an enormous impact on her, leading her to develop a strong sense of self-reliance, independence and belief in individual freedom.
A writer by trade, Lane played a major role in revising the original manuscripts about frontier life drafted by Laura Ingalls Wilder that turned into the Little House series, which would eventually sell an estimated 60 million copies.
Lane also wrote short stories and profiles of famous figures for the San Francisco Bulletin, and later made a name for herself writing for a variety of publications including Harper’s, the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and the Ladies’ Home Journal.
During a stint as a writer with the American Red Cross in Europe, which employed journalists to document the devastation of World War I, Lane had an opportunity to visit Soviet Russia.
Lane’s time in post-revolution Russia and her firsthand experience meeting villagers who lived under the Soviet regime led her to rethink her then-communist political philosophy.
She would eventually become a staunch opponent of communism and an ardent libertarian.
Life as a Libertarian
In the 1930s, Lane was a vocal opponent of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. She wrote the “real political question” of her time was “the choice between American individualism and European national socialism.”
In 1943, Lane published The Discovery of Freedom, a libertarian novel published the same year as Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine and Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. The publication of these works paved the way for the modern libertarian movement in America.
Later in life, Lane became a mentor to attorney Roger Lea MacBride, whom she called her “adopted grandson.” MacBride would go on to become heavily involved with Libertarian Party politics, help establish the Republican Liberty Caucus and produce the Little House on the Prairie television series.
Rose Wilder Lane’s writings on liberty and individual freedom continue to inspire young generations today, and her legacy of freedom and her family’s story of pioneer life and rugged individualism continue to live on.