Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder Versus Caddie Woodlawn

I was at the library checking out my CD version of Caddie Woodlawn. The librarian commented that as a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan she felt it was disloyal to read Caddie Woodlawn. I thought she was joking and asked her if she had read the book. Surely, librarians would know it is always better to have more books with wonderful characters you love. They are not really going to hold you accountable for disloyalty.

However, there has long been a strong debate over the two characters. I love them both, but have always felt a stronger personal connection to Caddie having four older brothers and a tomboy upbringing. However, my friends and I never met Caddie until we had almost reached what today would be labeled middle school. Prior to that Laura held all our attention. We were fascinated by her prairie life and explored as much about her life as was possible in an age before the Internet and interlibrary loan.

One issue that is often ignored when comparing the girls is the background of the families. Caddie's father had the financial stability and resources to allow his children to be children. While Caddie and her brothers and sisters are raised with chores and family responsibilities, there is never a fear that the family is about to lose everything. In fact, Caddie's family has servants and help for their farm and her father has a job that provides income separate from the farm. When he is required to serve in the military, he is able to pay a substitute to serve in his place.

Laura's family never knows financial security during her childhood years. She begins working outside the home, not to learn responsibility, but to help provide her sister with an education. Her father does not have time to consider the alternate child rearing methods. He is constantly focused on providing food, clothing, and shelter for his family.

I suggest parents and teachers encourage children not to choose an either or position with Laura and Caddie, but to explore both. Children may have a preference. Most of us do relate to some books and people better than others. There is no disloyalty in trying and even enjoying both life stories.


  1. I love Laura :-) I really like the analysis you provide of the two families. I like watching the old Little House series with my children sometimes, because it does speak to hardwork, and illustrates how families can pitch in as a team.

  2. I'm going to have to start reading these!