Happy Birthday To Rose Wilder Lane, American Heroine Of Liberty

The daughter of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder was born this day in 1886. Rose Wilder Lane became a wealthy writer in her time. In addition to working as a journalist, she wrote several novels and was probably an aid to her mother in writing or at least editing what we now know as The Little House on the Prairie series of eight books.

At one time she traveled through the USSR with the Red Cross and became a bitter foe of all forms of collectivism and a defender and advocate of traditional American individualism. The “Tory anarchist,” Albert Jan Nock wrote that Lane and her friend Isabel Patterson were the authors of “the only intelligible books on the philosophy of individualism that have been written in America this century.” Lane practiced what she preached. When income tax was legalized she fed herself from gardening to deliberately keep her income low enough to not pay any taxes.

You can find out much about this heroic woman from Wikipedia. In honor of her birthday I will reproduce her story of her encounter with a state trooper in 1943. It started because she heard radio commenter Samuel Grafton asked listeners’ for their opinions about Social Security. She wrote on a postcard,

If school teachers say to German children, “We believe in Social Security,” the children will ask, “Then why did you fight Germany?” All these “Social Security” laws are German, instituted by Bismarck and expanded by Hitler. Americans believe in freedom, in not being taxed for their own good and bossed by bureaucrats.

She signed it as C. G. Lane, probably because she was already known as an opponent of Social Security. Here is how she wrote about what happened next.

Two weeks later she was digging dandelions from her lawn when State Police car stopped at her gate. A State Trooper, uniformed and armed, walked up to her. He said that he was investigating subversive activities for the FBI, and asked her whether anyone in her house had sent a postcard to Samuel Grafton.

She said that she had sent one. The State Trooper leafed through a sheaf of papers clipped to a board, and found a typed copy of the words she had written, held this before her eyes and asked sternly if she had written those words.

She said, “Yes, I wrote that. What have the State Police to do with any opinion that an American citizen wants to express?

The trooper said, “I do not like your attitude.”

A furious American rose to her full height. “You do not like my attitude! I am an American citizen. I hire you. I pay you. And you have the insolence to question my attitude? The point is I don’t like your attitude. What is this—the Gestapo?”

The young State Trooper said hastily, “Oh no, nothing like that. I was not trying to frighten you.”

“You know perfectly well that your uniform and your tone would frighten a great many Americans in this neighborhood who remember the police methods in Europe. You know, or you should know, that any investigation of opinions by the American police is outrageous!”

“Oh, come now,” the trooper protested. “At least give me credit for coming to you, instead of going around among your neightbors and gathering gossip about you. I only want to know whether you wrote that postcard.”

“Is that subversive activity?” she demanded.                                

Somewhat confused, the trooper answered, “Yes.”

“Then I’m subversive as all hell!” she told him. “I’m against all this so-called Social Security, and I’ll tell you why.” And for five minutes she told him why. “I say this, and I write this, and I broadcast it on the radio, and I’m going to keep right on doing it till you put me in jail. Write that down and report it to your superiors.”

And now we live in a world where it is very likely that Rose Wilder Lane might have been shot dead on her front lawn.