Laura Ingalls Wilder as a proto-Reaganite? Surprisingly, the book (Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Impact On American Culture) didn’t appear until now.
When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, Fellman saw how deeply his individualist rhetoric resonated with average Americans and was reminded of her own emotional reaction to Wilder’s stories of prairie self-sufficiency. Fellman, now chair of the women’s-studies department at Old Dominion University, decided to investigate the politics of the popular series of children’s books.
Not only are rules and bureaucracies painted unflatteringly in the Little House series, but, as the Chronicle reports, the books also champion “self-reliance, isolationism and “buoyancy of spirit.” They contain, the volume alleges, anti-New Deal messages that may prove a “formative influence” on their “core political views.” Not to mention the formative influence of concerns about scarlet fever, fondness for one-room schoolhouses and a dog named Jack.
The only question left is: The Hardy Boys, skeptics prying beneath the rotten surface of middle-American society, or a fascist youth league enforcing Eisenhower conformity?