In 1932, the Daily Plainsman of Huron, South Dakota, ran a feature about a local woman convalescing in hospital. Grace Dow had been visited by her sister, Carrie Swanzey, who read a children’s book to her. What made this mundane story newsworthy was that the book was called Little House in the Big Woods, and the women sharing it were the sisters of its author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. The book told of their family’s decision 50 years earlier to leave the Big Woods of Wisconsin and head west as pioneers, travelling by covered wagon through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and into South Dakota, where they eventually settled in nearby De Smet, in 1879.
Wilder’s book offered ‘real knowledge of one phase of pioneer life’, the Daily Plainsman added:
In those days and in such remote parts of the country each home was, of necessity, virtually self-sufficient.