Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum
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Laura Ingalls Wilder section banner

Pioneering Journeys of the Ingalls Family
Mansfield, Missouri

The Wilders' house in Mansfiled, Missouri

Rose at 17.
--Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library (RWL #21)

Rose Wilder Lane was born on December 5, 1886 , "on the snow-buried prairies of South Dakota ." When Rose was seven, her parents, Laura and Almanzo Wilder, decided to leave South Dakota and move to Missouri , the Land of the Big Red Apple. They lived in a log cabin on their farm where Rose helped her mother plant garden seeds, gather eggs and pick wild berries.

Spookendyke the Donkey
Rose's donkey, Spookendyke.
--Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library (RWL #185)

Rose's parents gave her a donkey named Spookendyke to ride to school, a mile away in Mansfield . Rose wrote that the stubborn little donkey "liked to slump his ears and neck and shoulders suddenly when going down hill, and tumble me off over his head."

Rose loved to read and brought many books home from her school library. In the evenings, "Papa would pop a big pan of popcorn and Mama Bess would read aloud while he and I ate it." This was the comfort hour for all of them. Rose read constantly and sometimes forgot to attend to her chores. Often she forgot to take the bread out of the oven. When she baked gingerbread for the first time, she served the first piece to the minister. He ate it slowly and did not ask for seconds. Later Rose discovered that she had used hot pepper instead of ginger.

Rose as a career girl
Rose as a Career Girl
--Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library (RWL #22)

Rose wanted to go to high school but the Mansfield school only went to the eighth grade. Her parents allowed her to stay with Almanzo's sister, Eliza Jane, for a year so she could attend high school in Crowley , Louisiana . When she returned home, she learned telegraphy from the Mansfield depotmaster. At seventeen Rose began her working career as a telegraph operator in Kansas City , Missouri , for $2.50 a week.

In 1908 Rose moved to San Francisco where she married a real estate salesman, Gillette Lane . After selling real estate for several years and after the death of their baby son, Rose and Gillette were divorced.

In 1915, the year of the San Francisco World Fair, Laura traveled to California to visit Rose. She wrote letters to Almanzo about her visit, and these were published later as West From Home .

Rose at the Hetch-Hetcy Dam construction site
Rose at the Hetch-Hetchy Dam Construction Site
--Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library (RWL #43)

In 1915 Rose began writing newspaper articles for the San Francisco Bulletin.

Rose wrote a feature article for the Bulletin about the building of the Hetch-Hetchy Dam that would supply water to San Francisco . She traveled by wagon, on horseback and on foot into the Sierra wilderness to visit the construction camps.

Rose in France
Rose on a walking tour in France.
--Photo from the collection of the Hoover Library (RWL #45)

Soon Rose was writing magazine articles, short stories and books. She wrote biographies of Henry Ford, Jack London and Herbert Hoover. In 1920 she traveled to Paris , France , to begin work in the publicity office of the American Red Cross.

During her travels in Europe , Rose took a trip into the mountains of Albania and wrote The Peaks of Shala about her adventures.

After Rose returned from her travels, she lived at Rocky Ridge. She built a stone cottage for her parents and moved into the old farmhouse where she continued to write. In the early 1930s she began to work with her mother on the Little House books. Her book, Let the Hurricane Roar, about a young woman who spends a winter alone in a dugout on the Dakota prairie, became a best seller. In 1938 Rose purchased an old farmhouse near Danbury, Connecticut . She remodeled the house, gardened, and helped her mother write the last of the Little House books.

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Last updated:
October 29, 2004

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