Newly-Discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder Diaries

(left to right) Carrie, Mary, and Laura Ingalls, c. 1879

Literary scholars were shocked this week when researchers confirmed that dozens of hand-bound pages unearthed by workers along the Dakota Access Pipeline near De Smet, South Dakota are from the lost diary of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These new entries may shed some light on the controversy over the racism evident in Wilder’s Little House books, and the reality of life on the frontier. Here are some excerpts released by researchers:

November 13, 1870

Dear Diary: It is impossible to get any sleep in a one-room cabin with a baby squalling at all hours of the day and night. And Mary is such a bitch about it. Every single time I complain, Mary says “God sees and hears you. He knows you don’t love baby Carrie and your wrath is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. God is going to send you to hell for it. HELL.” How does a five-year-old learn such cruelty? And I swear to God if Pa plays that damn fiddle one more time, I’m going to “accidentally” step on it.

September 22, 1874

Dear Diary: I can’t really blame Pa for losing the wheat crop. It wasn’t his fault. I know we have to move, but Butt Crack, I mean Walnut Grove, Minnesota? Seriously? And why does Jack have to trot under the wagon for hundreds of miles? Poor dog looks like he’s half-dead. Every time I try to sneak him into the wagon, blabbermouth Mary says, “Remember the Fifth Commandment, Laura. God punishes children who do not listen to their parents. I’m telling Pa.” Maybe we should make Mary trot alongside the wagon for a while so she can learn about empathy.

September 26, 1874:

Dear Diary: Pa is a sociopath. What else can you call a man who drags his family all over the country and then makes them live in a fucking dugout? Pa says he’s going to build us a house, but he promises a lot of things and everything always goes wrong. So now not only do I have to put up with Carrie’s constant whining about nothing, Mary being a big tattle-tale, and Ma and Pa talking racist trash about the Native Americans whose land we’ve stolen, I now have to live in a dirt house. Ma and Pa say that Native Americans are “uncivilized,” but you don’t see any of them living in a hole in the dirt. I’ll probably catch some disease and die from sleeping in dirt.

July 7, 1876:

Dear Diary: Pa did build us a house, but as I predicted he lost it so now we’re moving to some sleazy hotel in Iowa. Pa says it’s “just bad luck,” but can it really always be “bad luck” when a man fails at every single thing he tries? Maybe it’s time for Pa to engage in some vigorous self-examination. When I pointed out that a hotel in a frontier town might not be the best environment for children, Mary said, “The Bible says that we should ‘give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ You’re not being thankful. You’re going to roast on a spit in the fires of hell forever if you keep this up.” SUCH a bitch.

August 27, 1876

Dear Diary: Baby Freddie died today. Pa says it is “God’s will,” but I’m pretty sure that the long wagon ride to Burr Oak, Iowa in the sweltering summer heat didn’t help. Yet another casualty of Pa’s narcissism. Mary and Carrie cried a lot. Ma hasn’t said much but if looks could kill, Pa would be roadkill for vultures by now. I hate Pa.

September 27, 1877

Dear Diary: Back in Walnut Grove again, because Pa can’t even make money running a hotel on the frontier. Pioneers, railroad workers, and whores everywhere, and he still can’t make a go of it.

January 14, 1879

Dear Diary: I never did get a disease, but Mary did and now she can’t see. Last night, instead of saying “Goodnight, Mary,” I whispered, “Remember, Mary, God sees and hears everything. You haven’t always been very nice to me. Maybe you lost your sight because you just haven’t been a good enough Christian.” She started crying AGAIN but I just rolled over and went to sleep. So there.

September 9, 1879

Dear Diary: Here we go again. Ma and me, Mary, Carrie, and Grace had to move to De Smet, South Dakota, the most boring place ever. Pa wasn’t here, he was off working for the railroad, because of course he is. He didn’t want to stay in this wasteland, either. Says he’ll build us a house soon. I don’t believe it, but Mary said, “This is part of God’s plan. He said, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ I’m going to tell Ma and Pa that you have abandoned your faith, and they’ll probably kick you out of the house.” Whatevs.

October 30, 1880

Dear Diary: It snowed today, much earlier than it was supposed to. It’s only October. Maybe this is just a freak snowstorm.

November 24, 1880:

Dear Diary: It has snowed almost every single day for three weeks. We can’t get to school, which is awesome, but when I started my happy dance, the one where you swing your arms in front of your body and then behind your body, Mary said, “Sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, right Ma? And isn’t Laura being slothful? We have a sinner in the house.” You would think that losing her sight would have made Mary a little more humble and a little less bitchy, but no. Ma sent me to bed without supper and she’s making me copy out twenty pages from Leviticus 11, which is just so boring and gross, with Moses putting blood on everyone. I bet Moses wasn’t even a real person and there is no God.

November 27, 1880

Dear Diary: We used up almost all the wood for the fire, so the house is freezing. Pa’s hands are too cold to play his fiddle. Maybe there is a God after all.

December 25, 1880

Dear Diary: You know what I want for Christmas? And end to this fucking interminable snow. And if one more person in the family tells me to stop complaining because the weather is “God’s will,” I’m going to slap them and tell them God told me to, that it was “his will.”

May 9, 1881

Dear Diary: The snow melted enough to let the train finally get through and now we have food. Mary ate so much so fast that she threw up. When she was bent over the bucket, Ma gave me a cool cloth to place on the back of Mary’s neck, and when I did, I bent down and whispered, “Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, too. I guess God’s not done with you yet, Mary.”

Making History, Education, Law, and Philosophy Relevant

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store