Lauters helps rediscover literary journalist

12:04:00 AM CDT - Thursday, May 03, 2007

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Long before Laura Ingalls Wilder started penning the "Little House on the Prairie" books, another Wilder woman was busy writing about American life and her travels.

Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, wrote literary nonfiction for more than 50 years, getting her start as a freelance writer at the San Francisco Bulletin in 1915, a couple of decades before her mother's books were published.

Lane's career has been overshadowed by her mother's in some ways, but thanks to the efforts of a WSU communication professor, Lane is being rediscovered.

Amy Mattson Lauters
Photo by Roni Ayalla
Elliott School assistant professor Amy Mattson Lauters holds a copy of her newly published book, “The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, Literary Journalist,” which contains pieces written by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. To the left are several pieces of Lauter’s collection of “Little House” memorabilia.
"She's one of those people who've gotten attention in sporadic and different ways," said Amy Mattson Lauters, an assistant professor in the Elliott School of Communication.

Lauters compiled 20 of Lane's pieces for her recently published book, "The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, Literary Journalist," released in February by the University of Missouri Press.

Lauters arranged the pieces chronologically for the book, starting with an article on World War I and ending with a piece Lane wrote in 1965 for Women's Day from Saigon in Vietnam.

In between there are pieces related to Lane's travels in Europe, her playing the part of an extra in a Douglas Fairbanks movie and the more serious subject of the high rate of maternal deaths.

"You see through this collection how she found her particular voice," said Lauters, who chose pieces that showed Lane's progression as a writer.

Lauters herself had to rediscover Lane before she realized what an outstanding, and unrecognized, writer she was. Like most people, Lauters was more familiar with Lane's mother as a writer.

However, Lauters also had another reason for her familiarity with the Ingalls family. Her grandmother was friends with an Ingalls relative and Lauters remembers getting her first "Little House" book at age 5 in the living room of that relative.

"I knew them as real people (the characters in the book) and it made a huge impression on me," said Lauters. "I became a rabid fan of the books and the women who went into creating the books."

Lauters went on to collect "literally everything printed or reprinted on the 'Little House.'"

In the course of her scholarly career, Lauters started looking at farmwomen's history and journalism, reading some of Wilder's columns that she'd written for a paper in Missouri from 1911-26.

She unearthed several of Lane's writings while doing that research at the Hoover presidential library in West Branch, Iowa. All of Lane's writings were left to the library since she had ghostwritten Herbert Hoover's autobiography and was friends with the 31st president. Wilder's writings also were donated to the library.

Having a book of her own now, Lauters said, is quite an experience.

"I'm giddy," she said in an interview just hours after spotting her book in a local bookstore. "It's fun to see it on the bookshelves."

Amy Mattson Lauters will do a reading and book signing of her book, "The Rediscovered Writings of Rose Wilder Lane, Literary Journalist," at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Watermark Books, 4701 E. Douglas.

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