Little House on the Prairie Novellist Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Is Removed from Top Children’s Literature Honor
Chris Spargo, Daily Mail, June 25, 2018
The famed author of the Little House on the Prairie series has been put out to pasture.
In a unanimous vote on Saturday, the board of the Association for Library Service to Children agreed to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from the group’s top award honoring children’s literature authors over her depiction of blacks and Native Americans in her work.
‘This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,’ said the group in a statement after the vote.
The honor will now be known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
Rob Lowe mocked the controversy on Monday, tweeting: ‘Wait.. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a racist author? How did I miss that?! Say it ain’t so, Halfpint!!!’
At the same time, Wendy McClure, who runs a parody account under Wilder’s name, wrote: ‘Not to be controversial (though of course I AM) but don’t you think an award should be more about honoring the person who WINS IT than the person it’s named for? Don’t worry about my name and what award it is or isn’t on, flutterbudgets. Kindly save your outrage for other things.’
Wilder’s name had still not been removed from the organization’s website as of Monday morning.
‘Administered by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children,’ reads the page describing the honor.
Below that is a biography of Wilder, which consists of just two sentences, followed by three paragraphs under the heading: ‘Wilder’s Legacy, and the Award in Context.’
That section, which is three times longer than the one detailing Wilder’s life, states: ‘Wilder’s body of work continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work.
‘Her books continue to be published, read, and widely used with contemporary children. ALSC recognizes the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally embraced.’
Later, the group stresses that while it will continue to preserve the works of Wilder, it has opted to not associate her name with a prize honoring a writer’s lifetime achievements.
The decision was made as the honor, now awarded annually, went to a black writer for the fourth straight year.
Jacqueline Woodson, the author of Brown Girl Dreaming, was the 2018 recipient of the first ever Children’s Literature Legacy Award, following in the footsteps of Donald Crews (2015), Jerry Pinkey (2016) and Nikki Grimes.
Past honorees include E. B. White (1970), Beverly Cleary (1975), Maurice Sendak (1983) and perhaps the most famous children’s writer of all, Theodor S. Geisel (1980).
Geisel, better know as Dr. Seuss, is now under investigation himself by the group’s task force, along with British bookseller John Newbery, illustrator Randolph Caldecott, businessman Robert Sibert, Mildred Batchelder, and author May Hill Arbuthnot.
The task force is now looking at those individuals to determine if there is ‘consistency between the legacy of the honoree-in-name, the purpose of the award, and ALSC’s core value.’
That group is then reminded that ‘these awards fund a majority of ALSC’s operating budget and have sponsors, endowments, and/or partners.’
The namesakes of a few of the group’s awards, including Latina librarian Pura Belpré and Andrew Carnegie are not under investigation per the task force’s charge.
Once that is completed and the group has delivered its recommendation to the board, the task force ‘may also make recommendations for future investigation of other ALSC sponsored or co-sponsored book, media, professional awards, and scholarships if deemed necessary.’
ALSC Blog Manager Mary Voors wrote on the group’s website that the vote on Saturday was met with a standing ovation.
‘Woo-Hoo!!!!’ she added at the end of her post.
‘It made me so proud to be an ALSC member and a Board Member!’
This year’s annual meeting was opened with a speech from Michelle Obama.
In Little House on the Prarie, Wilder writes early in the book that out west ‘there were no people. Only Indians lived there.’
That line clearly reveals Wilder’s belief that Native Americans were not ‘people,’ and was changed in the 1950s to read ‘no settlers.’
There are also a number of offensive comments made about Native Americans by other characters in Wilder’s book, while white men in black face perform for the amusement of others in her books.
These sentiments did not impact the success of her novels, which are still sold worldwide and were made into a hit television series starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.