The Revised Texts Wins Design Award

The South Dakota State Historical Society’s third Pioneer Girl Project installment, “Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts” written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal, has been selected for the Association of University Presses Scholarly Typographic award.

The annual AUPresses Book, Jacket and Journal Show, is in its 57th year of honoring academic publishers around the world. This year a virtual display of all winners can be found at

“I was especially pleased to discover designers who find ways to break free from traditional typography—not just to call attention to themselves, but to enlighten the content, or simply to delight the reader,” said Stephen Coles, a juror for the 2022 awards.

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.

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, 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 “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.”

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, Missouri, at age 90 on Feb. 10, 1957.

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, visit

Jeff Mammenga


Wind and Snow

On the Great Plains in January and February, the wind howls through the open spaces, sending snow and tumbleweeds scudding across the prairie. In town, the wind hurls itself at buildings, searching for a way in through any crack or cranny. Or so it seems to those of us who listen and watch as nature blasts and rattles the windowpanes. Laura Ingalls Wilder characterized the wind as doing “its best to blot out the town” of De Smet. In her autobiography, Wilder’s ability to give personality and malign intent to such natural elements foreshadowed the antagonistic role that wind and snow would assume in The Long Winter. In Pioneer Girl, however, Wilder immediately foretold the end of the story: “Here in his ages long war with the elements,” she wrote, “Man won though it was a hard, long battle.”1 In editing her mother’s autobiography, Rose Wilder Lane omitted this line, recognizing that Wilder had gotten ahead of her story.2

Wilder did not make the same mistake when drafting the novel she originally called “The Hard Winter.” She used each human encounter with a storm to increase the tension surrounding the battle with nature, as in this scene from Chapter 13: “‘I beat the storm to the stable by the width of a gnat’s eyebrow,’ [Pa] laughed. ‘It just missed getting me this time.’ . . . Pa sat by the fire in the front room and warmed himself, but he was uneasy and kept listening to the wind.”3 For all her ability to thus personify the storm by giving it human traits and motives, Wilder recognized that human beings could not successfully “battle” the storm but must simply endure it. As yet another blizzard rages “loud and furious” toward the end of The Long Winter, Pa reminds Laura that the storm “can’t beat us! . . . It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us. We won’t give up” (p. 311).

Pen and ink drawing for The Long Winter, Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle, 1940. Detroit Public Library

Hunkering down to outlast another winter on the Northern Great Plains, I take comfort in the fact that the Ingalls family and many others before and after them have refused to give up as wind and snow swept across the landscape. Like them, I’m grateful for a warm shelter and a cup of hot broth when the wind rattles the stovepipe and sends its frigid fingers around the windowsills and into the cracks.

Nancy Tystad Koupal

  1. Wilder, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, ed. Pamela Smith Hill (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2014), p. 210.
  2. Wilder, Pioneer Girl: The Revised Texts, ed. Nancy Tystad Koupal et al. (Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2021), pp. 290, 293n19.
  3. Wilder, “The Hard Winter” manuscript, p. 119, Rare Book Collection, Detroit Public Library, Detroit, Mich.