`We will call her Rose'
SO said Laura Ingalls Wilder at the birth of her only daughter. Often a child inherits a parent's talent. More unusual is a parent succeeding after a child. But that's what Laura was doing when her ``Little House'' books started to become famous in the 1930s. Rose already held a national reputation as a journalist and world traveler. In fact, if it hadn't been for Rose's help and encouragement, the beloved series might never have been completed and published.
Rose Wilder Lane was born in De Smet, South Dakota. When she was 7, the Wilders left their drought-stricken farm and moved to the Missouri Ozarks. Near Mansfield they settled and farmed successfully land that they called Rocky Ridge Farm. Laura and Almanzo spent the rest of their long lives there.
Laura often read aloud to Rose and Almanzo: poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Walter Scott, James Feni-more Cooper's ``Leather-Stocking Tales,'' and world history. Rose could read at age 3. Exceptionally bright and easily bored, she attended school sporadically but was generally self-educated. She read every book she could lay hands on. To speak many languages, travel around the world, and learn about everything were her childhood ambitions.
After high school, Rose learned telegraphy and moved to Kansas City. At that time, few women pursued careers or lived independently. But this ambitious young telegrapher worked her way across the country. Arriving in San Francisco, she went to work selling farmland and became the first female real estate agent in California history.
Rose's writing career began when her free-lance submissions were snapped up by the San Francisco Bulletin. She quickly learned to interview celebrities and write smooth, informative copy. Soon she joined the regular staff, and by 1914, had become a star reporter. During this time, she married Gillette Lane but was soon divorced.
In 1915, Rose received a visit from her mother. Laura came partly to seek her successful daughter's advice about her own writing career. Laura had been contributing articles to regional publications, sharing her philosophy of life and agricultural expertise. But she wanted to ``do some writing that will count.'' Rose convinced her to report on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition being held in San Francisco for the Missouri Ruralist; it would be 15 years before Laura started her ``Little House'' books.
Rose's dream of world travel came true after World War I when she took a job in Europe. Her assignment? To report to the American Red Cross and Near East Relief on postwar conditions so aid could be sent. She remained overseas for three years.
On her return Rose started contributing stories and articles to top magazines such as McCall's, Good Housekeeping, and The Saturday Evening Post. She also published several books of fiction and nonfiction. An astute political observer, she dedicated her life to the cause of human rights and the self-sufficient life style that she and her parents shared.
Off and on during these years, Rose lived at home in Mansfield while writing for various magazines. In 1930, she encouraged her mother to start recording her girlhood memories and her father's stories in ``Little House in the Big Woods.'' For the next decade, Rose guided, goaded, and assisted until Laura's eighth book, ``These Happy Golden Years,'' was published. Although she dealt with agents and publishers and essentially launched the ``Little House'' books into the world, Rose never claimed credit for her part in the success of the world-renowned series.