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As Hill undertook her research for that book, she found herself returning often to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s unpublished autobiography Pioneer Girl.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