Little House book concerns ?

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  • Sara B.

    Bookworm, that’s exactly what I was thinking.  Show those girls who aren’t “girlish” or who are “headstrong” that there is a proper way to reflect their personality without making it a “bad” thing to have that personality.  My 7yo dd is totally tomboyish (yet she loves skirts/dresses – go figure).  She will catch pretty much any disgusting creature.  She has the worst temper (like her mother Embarassed ).  She is a daydreamer and can’t sit still to save her life.  Yet, on her top 3 list of what she wants to be when she grows up?  A mom.  So these books of tomboys who grow up to marry and have children will show her how and help her cultivate her tomboyish tendencies into a strong, loving wife and mother someday – albeit not a perfect wife or mother.  But who is?


    Bookworm,  I too was one of those little girls – the one that wanted to be the first woman president, the one that not only graduated at the top of my class, but HAD to have the top grade in EVERY class – particularly any class with smart boys in it – including my college economics class where I was the ONLY girl in the class.  I was the girl who scoffed at Home Economics and proposed that restaurants have a “no children” dining area… and of course I was a Christian.  I demeaned Dobson, because HE was so patronizing toward strong women.  I went into politics and LOVED being a bright, up and coming, young women in a field filled with men.  I sat in smoke filled rooms as deals were brokered.  I embraced “Christian feminism” because after all, Jesus was/is a feminist – I mean, he appeared to women first after his resurrection.   Blah, blah, blah – I am SO glad that God has changed my priorities and sadly, it was in no part due to reading any of those books.  Sure, they weren’t the ones that pushed me over the edge, but the certainly didn’t help me along any.  But, I didn’t need Jo or Anne to teach me that it was OK to be smart or agressive or to pursue my dreams, I had plenty of Christian women to support me in that.

    So, while I’m not advocating that you tell your daughter to HUSH and sit quietly in the back of the classroom.  I do think it’d be wise to consider how even the most innocent of books can feed desires to NOT embrace things that are feminine and lovely, because in essence that’s what those books did for me.  They told me I didn’t need to worry about burning ANOTHER hole in my dress – who cares what I look like, only the silly, superficial sisters care about that (and the sweet one that dies).  They taught me, that the older goody two shoes sister was the boring one, much better to be out planning in the dirt and climbing trees and working in the barn with Pa.  And they taught me how to be ultra competitive and carry out a first class rivalry with a boy.  Now, I understand that those weren’t things that everyone got out of those books, but that’s MY personal experience and it’s one that I didn’t identify until I had read those articles at Keepers of the Faith.

    Sadly, I wish someone would have taught me that being a strong woman means that it’s ok to embrace being feminine and learning practical things, perhaps then I wouldn’t struggle so much at maintaining my home and raising my children – I hope that I’m teaching them to learn both practical things at home AND how to be bright and accomplished – a true proverbs 31 woman, who brings glory and honor to her husband – not by being equal to him, but by working day and night for her family and not for her own prideful ambitions.



    I didn’t plan to post on this topic, but kept thinking over it tonight while washing dishes, so here goes. Regarding the naughtiness in the books, yes Laura may have been naughty at times but I cannot think of a single instance where she didn’t suffer the consequences of her actions, in some cases she was disciplined by her parents (having to stay right by Ma in the dugout the whole day instead of going outside because she disobeyed about going to the deep part of the creek alone, nearly drowning! – from Along Banks of Plum Creek came to mind right away), in other cases she suffered remorse and regret. (Her horror at her contribution to the out of control chaos at school when Eliza Jane Wilder was the teacher). One could make a case that her retaliation against Nellie Olson (at the party, again Plum Creek) was something she got away with, but even so, Nellie turns up later in the books and Laura still has the issue of how to get along with her. Does she ever? And how do you get along with someone who can be so mean and nasty? Nellie pursues Almanzo Wilder as well – Laura tells him to choose! (These Happy Golden Years). My point is this: Laura does not trapsie blithely through the book series being naughty and getting away with it. She is portrayed as a very real person who makes both GOOD and BAD choices. (Don’t we all?)The great part is the seeing her thoughts and responses to both! I think there is more than enough good in the books that far outweighs any of the negative. Nor does the naughtiness go unaddressed! There are direct consequences to ALL of Laura’s actions and I do not see how it could encourage misbehavior, especially if you are talking about the books as you read! If the issue is simply Laura’s refusal to use the word “obey” in her wedding vows, than either skip that section or talk to your daughters about it. But I do not think it is in itself is grounds to toss the series out! 

    I also think one of the most beautiful passages about womanhood is found in Caddie Woodlawn, when her father asks her if she’s “run with the colts long enough” and points out quite acurately I might add the challenging task a woman faces in this world. It’s so wonderful I pulled out my book to re-read! Here it is below!

    (Caddie has just been punished for her part in playing a trick on cousin Annabelle, this is her father speaking) “Perhaps Mother was a little hasty today, Caddie.” He said. “She really does love you very much and you see, she expects more out of your than she would of someone she didn’t care about. It’s a strange thing, but somehow we expect more of girls than boys. It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their rough way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task, too Caddie – harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges and carve road through the wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But a man could never do it so well. I don’t want you to be a silly affected person with fine clothes and manners whom folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind. Do you think you would like to be growing up into that woman now? How about it Caddie, have we run with the colts long enough?” 



    My daughters read these books except the Anne ones which they did not take too – they have also read books about missionary women like Gladys Aylward – they are well rounded and have not become radical feminists or even mild feminists through those stories. I like to think that as a family we have grounded them and have taught them to discern right ideas from wrong. We discuss things in depth and they know I want them to be strong and capable women, who can fend for themselves should the Lord not see fit to send a husband their way – but by the same token they embrace their household work and crafts, and love caring for neighbors children. They know they may have to work and they have also said once they marry they would prefer to stay home and raise their children and homeschool them. I think we do our children no favors by ignoring the fact that they may have to be in the world by themselves and earn their own money. My husband is the head of our household, but we are partners in how we make decisions, he is not a dictator, he respects my views as I respect his – we most often come to joint decisions and on the odd occasion I defer to him if we have not found common ground, I do not want my daughters to be incapable of taking care of themselves should the need arise, or if they are widowed for example – I want them to know the difference between being strong Christian women and feminism in all its unpleasant forms. Being strong is not wrong in Gods eyes, the Bible is full of truly strong women who my daughters admire. My daughter’s loved those books and still re-read them today from time to time for fun. Linda :))


    Thank you Linda, you’ve given a brilliant, real life scenario to what I was trying to express.  With discussion, a wide range of reading materials including Christian biographies and missionary stories and a strong healthy family life to balance things out, these books can be enjoyed without being a detriment to your daughters. 

    I had hoped that I would be able to express this with my first post without putting the whole board on the “defense”, but apparently some ill choices of words set hearts afire.  Please disregard all my previous posts and allow me to just click “like” on missingtheshire’s most recent post.


    What LadyoftheHouse wrote is right on:

    “I don’t know all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s views or her philosophy on women’s roles. But I must admit that my first response when reading that you said some view these books as feministic was to laugh…..”

    I wouldn’t panic or get too upset about such things read online or elsewhere. Pray about it and then you’ll receive divine intervention.

    Lesley Letson

    I tend to be longwinded, but I will try to refrain here 🙂 Just to look at this from a slightly different perspective – I grew up with a single mom surrounded by three other very feminist aunts. I went to public school and was pushed the whole feminist agenda my entire growing up years (one of my high school history classes devoted a whole semester to promoting it). When I changed my major in college (out of pre-med) I caught much flack from those around me. When I chose to work for a church ministry it wasn’t exactly frowned upon (we all did go to church) but I was bribed with an offer to move back home, have all my expenses paid if I would go to law school, since I wasn’t “living up to my potential.” When I chose to marry and move to a farm (which meant not having a “real job”) more sparks flew. I would say all of this is less than subtle, much less subtle than an undercurrent in a book that may or may not be there. BUT by God’s grace I am at home, teaching my children, keeping my house and am fulfilling my role as a wife and a mother – but I still wrangle horses, shoot guns, operate heavy machinery, do woodworking and construction (attemted welding but I’ll leave that up to the hubby) – but does that make me a feminist? I don’t think so, none of those usurp my primary roles (I actually think it’s great that I enjoy those things since I have all boys!). All that to say, that yes, I think I need to be cautious of what my children read, and I need to be sure to teach them in a way to have a solid biblical foundation for which they can sift life through – but at the end of the day I have to ultimately trust in God’s grace in their lives. I can’t stress myself out trying to protect them from every bad thing (or think that I can, since even the “best raised” children can turn away from the Lord) – and if I am stressing about that, I am not trusting God to be as powerful as He really is. I can look back and see His protection over me from a much more worldly upbringing, so I must trust that He will protect them as well. Just my 2 cents……

    Rebekahy, I think I knew what you were expressing, thanks for your words. mjemom your post makes a lot of sense as well – we must trust God – our strength to the largest extent comes from Him, sometimes we think we can do it alone and we cannot. With a good Biblical foundation, discussion, love and understanding we will raise sons and daughters who are able to stand firm against the nonsense of the world – I have always felt that my daughters needed to know a little nonsense so that they would know what they had to stand against. It is a little like reading twaddle – all kids will read twaddle if we let them (grown ups too) but when we introduce them to real living books and classic literature, they soon see the diffference and no longer desire the twaddle – it is all preparation for adulthood and once they are adults they will and need to start making decisions when they are able for themselves, then our job is to guide, but they will make their own way whether we agree or not – so training in the early years is so important. Prepare your children well and with God in your heart you will not fail and neither will they.


    I haven’t read the article, but I have read all the posts here.  I think one thing that hasn’t been adressed is the fact that we are all different with different life experiances.  We all see the same world, but differently.  Rebekahy read a book with a background of being a strong woman and identified with that in the story.  Bookworm read the same book but with a background of feeling akward and trying to find her place and identified with the same character, but took from it that she could be what she wanted.  Same book, same character, but different people reading wth different life experiences and  having different views on the story.  (I hope you don’t mind using both of you as an example here.  I’m not trying to say I know anything about you, just what you have writen here.) 

    All this to say that we shouldn’t bann or shield our children, who are different people than us, from books just because we had a bad experience with it.  The best advice has already been mentioned of talking with our children as we read.  Our children may not have the same struggle we had, and might see something different it the story. 

    Here is a crazy senario:  What if Rebekahy didn’t let Bookworm read the books because of how they affected here?  But the books helped Bookworm to become the woman she is today.  I know there is so much more to what made Bookworm the woman she is today than reading these books, but it is a part of her history.  Just some wild thoughts to think about. 

    Great point Ruth – Linda :))

    Betty Dickerson

    One thing I do appreciate about these books is that the characters are not perfect. I think the best scenario is to discuss these books (narration) or read them together. I didn’t grow up reading these books, but wish I had. There are many admirable qualities in the characters and many life lessons that could be learned through the lives of these imperfect characters.

    What has been more of a stumbling block to me and my children, are books (even history books) that present people all glossed over, with no faults. Oh, the needless burden I have carried most of my life, keeping my struggles to myself because I thought nobody else had any. This is where a Biblical worldview is so helpful. We are all depraved and deserve hell. Only by God’s grace can we be saved. And then we must press on and live the Christian life through faith and repentance–mostly on our knees. The books that present people as almost perfect have done more damage to me than these other books. I guess because the “perfect” characters appeal to the Pharisee in me.

    That said, I do like to discuss these books. There have been many a time where I’ve stopped reading and asked, “How would our family handle that situation?” Most times, we would have prayed and sought the Lord before acting or thinking we had to fix something.

    Like others have said, it’s good to have a balance of books. There is so much value in many of these children’s books, despite the very flawed life of the authors. It also makes for good discussion. But the biggest influence on our children is the “book” they read everyday in our own life example. I think I teach them much more inadvertently than I realize. I should hold my own self to a higher standard that I hold these books. We are the filter to help them sort through different world views, decisions, and learn how to make good, God honoring decisions. This is what will prepare them for life. But at the end of the day, they will fall back on what is most familiar, what they saw day in and day out in their homes, and that is so convicting to me.

    I’m looking forward to reading the Little House series with my youngest for the first time. My children have read these books, but I never did (even though I was even in honors Engish in school). I have watched the Little House series, and I have to admit that Ma’s example and patience and hard work really speak to me. I even think about her during the day wondering how she would react. So, my guess is that the books are going to be even more of an inspiration to me.

    Someone else mentioned that we need to rely on the Holy Spirit more with each child and with each book and that is so true. Each of my children is so different. But using living books as a spring board to address weaknesses or faults, and to encourage good character makes life and learning very fluid, dynamic, and REAL. We have such a blessing to be encouraged to look beyond the textbooks, to a way of teaching and learning that touches the heart.

    I must say that I get a little wary of people that make so many “rules” determining for others what is godly or evil leaving no room for others to turn to God and seek Him for themselves. I have been so blessed by some of these books, especially C. S. Lewis, leaving behind some of the chaff and gleaning from the wheat. He taught adults, in a very stuffy, dry time in Christianity, to wonder and be in awe of God again through the wonder of a little girl. It brings me to tears every time.

    Blessings, Betty


    I did not finish reading all your comments yet. But I just have to say that I very much appreciate LIW’s honesty about her struggles as a kid. I think it is because she is REAL that my son can identify with her and be encouraged to try to do better, just as she did. I can’t tell you how often I refer back to one of the stories when discussing one issue or another that ds is struggling with. I had read what these folks thought of CS Lewis and Louisa May Alcott, but am quite surprised to hear they dislike Little House, too! Obviously I strongly disagree with that. 🙂

    I was a bit confused after reading what they wrote about CS Lewis. But recently The Desiring God Blog has a series running called “Live Like a Narnian” that has immensely helped my understanding of his intentions for the series. For example, KOH states that CS Lewis denied that there was anything Christian about the stories. But actually, it was allegory he was denying. The stories are not allegories, but supposals. Anyway, that’s just one example of KOH misunderstanding an author’s intentions. If you’re interested, you can read more here:

    After reading a few of the KOH book reviews, I really mulled their thoughts over quite a bit before deciding. While they may make a few valid points to be aware of, I think overall they are mistaken in their judgements. Especially when they go beyond reviewing the stories to actually casting judgement on the authors themselves. That, to me, was a big red flag.

    Anyway, that’s my .02, and then some. HTH. 🙂

    Melissa, in TX

    Betty Dickerson

    Thank you so much for posting the link to Live Like a Narnian series, Melissa. That was wonderful!! I would like to print them out for our whole family to read. That really adds to our conversation here. Thanks so much for that!! Blessings, Betty


    I never read the Little House books as a child, unfortunately, but do remember watching the TV show.  My 3yo has never watched, or cared, much for cartoons or kids shows (much because I dont’ let her watch them).  Instead, I am so glad that she will snuggle with me and ask to watch “Prairie”.  And then, in the opening credits, she runs around the house mimicking the little girls.  We will talk about the characters and what’s going on, what’s happening, who’s being kind or unkind Smile (some of the episodes of course, I preview or delete immediately, as there are quite a few that deal with abuse, death, alcoholism, etc.).  sometimes, as I’m working to teach her chores, she will reference how “prairie girls” would do it. 

    I actually went and bought the series and started reading them myself!!  And I must be a really really simple person, because I have never felt any awful/strange/feminist undercurrents.  I must be quite a simpleton, honestly.  Because what I see as I read them is – children obeying their parents, parents properly training their children, kids playing in the *outdoors*, helping with household tasks, a father working hard to provide, a mother working amazingly hard at running the household, etc.  I read her descriptions of things and marvel at her sense of observation.  In fact, so much of it strikes me as very CM-like.   And I can’t wait to read these books with my little girl someday.  Laughing


    Great perspective, Ruth!  

    I just thought I’d add that I have read the Little House series with my now 6 year old daughter, some of the books multiple times!!  We LOVE Laura.  My daughter has the dramatic tendency to become whatever character we are reading about.  Guess what – when she was Laura, she was uncommonly gentle and wore dresses and bonnet and wanted to be a little helper around the house.  What she learned from Laura Ingalls seems to be quite the opposite of the supposed feminist character.  In fact, on more than one occasion, I have caught myself saying, “Mary and Laura would not have done that…”  

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