Genius in the Making

In 1995 the University of Missouri Press published The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane by William Holtz, who made a small sensation by contending that everything that makes the famous "Little House" books remarkable and memorable was actually the work not of Laura Ingalls Wilder but of her daughter. Rose Lane—the novelist, magazine author, and libertarian pamphleteer—who took what were originally disorganized and amateurish effusions by her mother and reorganized, expanded, rewrote, and polished them to create what for nearly 70 years have been recognized as classics of American children's literature. Holtz's claim that Lane functioned as Wilder's ghostwriter made him a minor literary celebrity overnight—especially in his home state of Missouri—but, while some readers enthusiastically accepted his conclusions, others (including long-standing Wilder scholars like William T. Anderson) demurred. Five years later, the same press has published a full-fledged rebuttal to Holtz's work, in the form of a biography of Mrs. Wilder by John E. Miller, a professor of history at South Dakota State University at Brookings and author of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House: Where History and Literature Meet. While the central aim of Miller's book is to delineate the personal and artistic development that transformed a pioneer girl and Missouri matron best known for...

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