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State Historical Society rediscovering the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder

The South Dakota State Historical Society’s Pioneer Girl Project has released its next book exploring the writings and legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts was written by Ingalls Wilder and edited and annotated by Nancy Tystad Koupal.

For generations, the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder have defined the American frontier and the pioneer experience for the public at large. Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts presents three typescripts of Wilder’s original Pioneer Girl manuscript in an examination of the process through which she and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, transformed her autobiography into the much-loved Little House series. As the women polished the narrative from draft to draft, a picture emerges of the working relationship between the women, of the lives they lived, and of the literary works they created.

Editor Tystad Koupal and other editors of the Pioneer Girl Project provide a meticulous study of the Wilder/Lane partnership as Wilder’s autobiography undergoes revision, and the women redevelop and expand portions of it into Wilder’s successful children’s and young adult novels and into Lane’s bestselling adult novels in the 1930s. The three revised texts of Pioneer Girl, set side by side, showcase the intertwined processes of writing and editing and the contributions of writer and editor. In background essays and annotations, Tystad Koupal and her team of editors provide historical context and explore the ways in which Wilder or Lane changed and reused the material.

“Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts makes fresh observations that are sure to jump-start new debate and discussions centered on the writer-editor relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane,” writes Wilder scholar and bestselling author William Anderson. “The annotations provide great documentary background and reveal the behind-the-scenes work that led to the now classic Little House series.”

Wilder and Lane’s partnership has been the subject of longstanding speculation, but Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts is the first work to explore the women’s relationship by examining the evolution of surviving manuscripts. Showcasing differences in the texts and offering numerous additional documents and handwritten revisions, the editors create a rich resource for scholars to use in assessing the editorial and writing principles, choices, and reasoning that Lane employed to shape the manuscripts for publication. Readers can follow along as Wilder grows into a novelist that “no depression could stop.”

The New York Times bestseller, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (2014), edited by Pamela Smith Hill, gave the general reader easy access to Wilder’s original account for the first time, but that book only scratched the surface of available textual and archival materials. Ultimately, the editors of Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts employ the rich resource of letters between Wilder and her publisher and between Wilder and Lane, along with rough drafts and false starts of the Little House books, to inform scholars and readers about the original manuscript’s metamorphosis into novels and about the intriguing editorial relationship between Wilder and Lane. Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts deepens our understanding of Wilder and the process through which she would ultimately become an icon of young adult literature.

Wilder (1867-1957) finished her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in 1930 when she was 63 years old. Throughout the 1930s and into the early 1940s, Wilder utilized her original manuscript to write a successful series of books for young readers. Wilder died in Mansfield, Mo., at 90 years of age on Feb. 10, 1957.

Tystad Koupal is director and editor-in-chief of the Pioneer Girl Project. She received an M.A. in English from Morehead State University in Kentucky and did postgraduate work in American literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She founded the South Dakota Historical Society Press in 1997. Koupal is also the editor of Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The South Dakota Historical Society Press is committed to producing books reflecting the rich and varied history of the Northern Great Plains. Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts is available for $49.95 plus shipping and tax and can be purchased through most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit or call 605-773-6009. For distribution information, contact Find out more about the Pioneer Girl Project at For information about membership in the State Historical Society, call 605-773-6000.

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution since 2013, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing, and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

About the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation
The South Dakota Historical Society Foundation is a private charitable nonprofit that seeks funding to assist the South Dakota State Historical Society in programming and projects to preserve South Dakota’s history and heritage for future generations.

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