My Literary Heroine, Icon and Role Model


Is it possible that one’s political leanings can be traced back to the influence of a series of books read in childhood?

There are so many stories about how writers are discovered, many fascinating, some almost tragic, and a few comic.  I don’t know where you put the story of Hemingway’s first wife losing a manuscript on a train and earning a divorce, but you get the picture.

Legend has it that  a manuscript  made the rounds, everyone tossing it aside.  Finally an editor took it with her on a train trip home and became so engrossed in the story she missed her stop and ended up traveling far out of her way, while she read.  She bought the book rights.

I wish I could point to a famous, illustrious literary  icon as my role model.  A few  years ago it dawned on me that there are a few reasons I am a writer.  There is a reason I live in the “west”.  There is also a reason I am interested in the “wild west” and its culture. Let’s just deal with it and celebrate the life of a remarkable woman (and a 5th cousin).

When I was a kid, I was a Nancy Drew buff.  I was also into reading Greek and Roman mythology.  I read about the life of Martha Washington (still one of my icons).  One day when my mother took my sister and I to our local library (still in the old house) in Seneca, SC, I wanted to know if there were any good science fiction stories or something else about Martha Washington.

I was in the 6th or 7th grade at the time.

The librarian said she had a book she wanted me to read.  She thought I would find it quite interesting. The author would never win a Pulitzer or be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature.  Her daughter would go on to be one of the founders of the libertarian philosophy and a ground-breaking war correspondent.   The books were simple tales about the struggle of a pioneering family.


I had just finished reading the Iliad.  I went from that great classic, to the book that changed the direction of my life, not that I knew it at the time.   I would go on to discover my great-grandfather Albert Perkins’ sister and the author’s sister were best friends and room-mates.  I began to treasure the stories which took place around the same time and same part of the country where Albert and my great-grandmother Alma Dustin Perkins grew up.  I could see the times of  their lives in her stories.

By now you have probably guessed the book was Little House on the Prairie and the author was Laura Ingalls Wilder.

“…Last June, Anita Clair Fellman, a professor emerita of history at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia, published “Little House, Long Shadow,” a survey of the Wilders’ “core” beliefs, and of their influence on American political culture. Two streams of conservatism, she argues—not in themselves inherently compatible—converge in the series. One is Lane’s libertarianism, and the other is Wilder’s image of a poster family for Republican “value voters”: a devoted couple of Christian patriots and their unspoiled children; the father a heroic provider and benign disciplinarian, the mother a pious homemaker and an example of feminine self-sacrifice….”

I do agree the politics of the Wilders.  Rose Wilder Lane wrote in her journal not long after FDR was elected, “We now have a dictator.”  According to a rather detailed New Yorker piece by Judith Truman, the Wilders blamed their poverty on the Democrats.   In 1943 Almanzo was going to go after an agent from the DOA with a shotgun.

“…In 1936, the Saturday Evening Post published Lane’s own “Credo,” an impassioned essay that was widely admired by conservatives. Her vision was of a quasi-anarchic democracy, with minimal taxes, limited government, and no entitlements, regulated only by the principle of personal responsibility. Its citizens would be equal in their absolute freedom to flourish or to fail….”I hoped that Roosevelt would be killed in 1933,” she wrote to her agent, George Bye, who also represented Eleanor Roosevelt….”

It all makes sense. Esp. when you consider Obama’s reading material.

My Reidhead and Perkins family came from Minnesota.  They experienced those bad times, the depressions, the financial ruin, the diseases, deaths, Indian massacres.  My ggrandmother grew up at the same time as Laura and her family.  They were related in several different ways.  And – those hardships made for stauch Republican values.

According to my father, the only time he ever saw his father cry was the 4th time FDR was elected POTUS.


One thought on “My Literary Heroine, Icon and Role Model

  1. I would also recommend Willa Cather as an author who portrays the strength of American pioneers and the vision of women of the West.

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