The Beginning

In 2005, the South Dakota Historical Society Press commissioned Pamela Smith Hill to write a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Press published Hill’s Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life in 2007. The book won two national awards and received high praise from critics and general readers alike.

As Hill undertook her research for that book, she found herself returning often to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s unpublished autobiography Pioneer Girl. In a number of versions, the manuscript remained buried in archives across the United States, hidden and little-known. Despite the massive popularity of Wilder and her books, the author’s own first words depicting her life—her autobiography—had never seen the light of day as a published book.

Once Hill finished the biography, we determined that we should work toward the goal of publishing Wilder’s autobiography.

The Pioneer Girl Project and its website are among the steps toward that goal. Much has already been achieved, but here, for the first time, the South Dakota Historical Society Press announces that it will publish Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, with Pamela Smith Hill as editor.

Without the approval of the Little House Heritage Trust, which holds the copyright to all versions of Wilder’s autobiography, we would be unable to publish this important work. Partly as a result of the excellent relationship that we established with the Trust in publishing Hill’s Laura Ingalls Wilder, we have been able to secure the permission needed. We are most grateful to the Trust, and we look forward to working with them throughout this project.

Over the next year or so, this site will feature content aimed at telling the story of the research and publishing of a comprehensive edition of Pioneer Girl.  You’ll get a front-row seat to view the process. Video, audio, and written pieces from the staff of the Pioneer Girl Project and other Laura Ingalls Wilder curators and scholars will tell the story of this manuscript and its publication. Our goal is to let you see the inner workings of the project as it moves toward publication.

We share the fascination of many thousands of people across the United States and beyond with this seminal work, and the staff of the South Dakota Historical Society Press is excited at the prospect of publishing the autobiography of a well-respected American children’s author whose roots are planted deep in South Dakota. We look forward to the journey we are all about to undertake, and we hope that you enjoy the trip as well.

Nancy Tystad Koupal


28 thoughts on “The Beginning

  1. This is surely an exciting piece of news! I have seen “Pioneer Girl” at the Herbert Hoover Library, but having it available to the general public is a valuable step in the right direction. Thanks to you and Pamela (whom I met at LauraPalooza two years ago) for undertaking this project.

    Ann Weller Dahl
    in Baltimore, MD

  2. I am so excited! I have loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work since my third grade teacher read them to us before lunch. I’ve read nearly everything, studied her and been to most of the sites. Ever since i heard about Pioneer Girl when I read Donald Zochert’s biography, I’ve wanted to read the actual piece. Thank you SO MUCH for publishing this for fans like me who have been wanting to read the whole thing forever!

  3. I have been a followre of LIW for almost 30 + years now and am very much interested in the Pioneer Girl Project. and excited to see its finished work .

  4. This news is exciting to hear and second only to the news when “The First Four Years” was published in the early 1970s! I’ve wanted to read “Pioneer Girl” for years!!!

  5. This is such wonderful news! Thank you to the Trust, Ms. Hill and all involved in bringing Pioneer Girl and the story of its publication to us all!!!

  6. I, too, had wonderful teachers who read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books aloud in the afternoons of second and third grade. After reading Wendy McClure’s book ,The Wilder Years, I began listening to them again this past year on my drives to work. Lyrical, poetic, at times even terrifying, I now appreciate the hardship and endurance in a way I could not as a child. Thank you for undertaking this important project.

  7. I am so excited as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books have been part of my life since I was a young girl. They are by far my favorite books of all time and every few years I reread them. I admire Laura and her family and the courage and love they had. Their life may have been a simpler one but it certainly was a much harder one.

  8. My favorite time of the day when I taught third grade was when I read stories to my students. My favorite series was LIW books. My students loved to hear of her life as a pioneer. I am looking forward to reading The Pioneer Girl. Thank you for taking on this project.

  9. I am thrilled to learn about this project from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society’s e-newsletter which I receive each month. I visited Rocky Ridge Farm exactly 10 years ago, and it was exciting to see Pa’s fiddle in person, and walk into Laura’s home. I look forward to 2013!

  10. I stumbled upon your website doing a search about Pioneer Girl. I have been a fan of Laura’s for quite a long time and have always wanted to read Pioneer Girl. This is definitely exciting news. I can’t wait until it’s published. I look forward also to following you on your journey.

  11. I am really looking forward to “Pioneer Girl”. Thank you all for undertaking this project. I can hardly wait!

  12. This is absolutely terrific news. I first encountered the Ingalls and Wilder families as a 3rd grade student nearly 50 years ago. I have heard about the Pioneer Girl ms for years and am very eager to finally read it. Those who have embraced the Little House series for so long often feel as if the Ingalls and Wilders are part of our own families. As readers, we’ve been more than fans, so this news comes as much as a “reunion” of sorts as it will be a much anticipated work. Best wishes to all involved…and to all who await.

  13. As I finish up reading the entire series to my 6 year old son, I’m excited that the journey doesn’t have to end there! Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and effort put towards this project. It means so very much to me, as it surely does to many, many folks out there. After going through some of the hardest years in my life these past two years, some of my happiest moments are curling up on the couch and reading Laura’s beautiful books to my son. This past June, my husband drove us all the way from South Texas up to the Dakotas and back down through Missouri to see where Laura and her family lived. What a dream of a vacation, and now, after seeing where she grew up, it makes the books even more real to me. I look forward to this gem of a books being published and released next year! THANK YOU!!!!

    • Knowing from your Pioneer Girl comments how much you and your son enjoyed the “Little House” books and then your trip to the sites, I thought you might be interested in knowing about the very detailed reading guides to the books that I wrote for the homeschooling and charter school division of Calvert School in Baltimore, where I taught for three decades in the Day School. If you go to the BEYOND LITTLE HOUSE website and put in the date September 19, 2012, you will see an article about the guides, that includes comments on them by LIW scholars, and how to order them. I think you and your son will be excited about the information as well as the songs, recipes, and original (1932-1943) illustrations that are included in the guides.

  14. sorry but I don’t understand the process. There is a manuscript of Laura’s autobiography at the Ricky Ridge museum? and it’s just been sitting there for years? And all the while, her books have been published, read and celebrated? I don’t understand the comments about the manuscript being in archives all over, and in the Herbert Hoover library? How can a manuscript be in multiple places at once? Would someone please explain this to me clearly. I think I must not be the only person who does not see the whole picture.

    • Dear Sandy,
      Laura’s original manuscript for “Pioneer Girl” was edited a number of times and has been copied a number of times as well. Therefore, there are multiple (but not that many) versions of this manuscript in various repositories across the country. The SDSHS Press is publishing her original manuscript with annotations (information placed on the side of the main text) that will provide the history behind what she wrote, how her original, unpublished Pioneer Girl relates to her published Little House books, and many other interesting facts. I hope that helps clear things up a little bit.

  15. I have always loved the Laura series and have each of them and as I find more that goes with her books before and after. Books written by her mom and by her daughter I try to buy them. I now have all 10 seasons of Little House on the Prairie DVD’s plus the Pilot DVD that started the whole TV series off and the Christmas DVD. I always Dream of living in that time period.

  16. The funny thing to me is…I’m 53, and a writer myself. I’m also an avid reader. Yet, every little piece of information about Laura, her life or her works excites me as though I were six years old and just learning to read! I think that, surely, I must be the only person who feels this way–then I read how everyone else here, and on other Little House blogs, feels as I do. I literally can’t wait until Pioneer Girl is published. It’s what I want for Christmas.

  17. Pingback: New Pioneer Girl Book Releasing – Sarah's Notebook

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