Rose, on the other hand, had acquired extravagant habits, chafing under the poverty?stricken circumstances in which she had grown up
For a family that had never accumulated very much in the way of material possessions, the Great Depression was less traumatic than it was for those who had never known want. Laura and Almanzo Wilder had experienced adversity on the Dakota prairies during their early years of marriage in the 1880s and had been driven in desperation during the depression?wracked and drought?plagued year of 1894 to try their luck in the more hospitable climes of Missouri. But eeking out a living on their Rocky Ridge farm just outside of Mansfield and for a time in town with Almanzo’s draying business and Laura’s cooking, had not been easy. What modest prosperity the couple had come to enjoy by the late 1920s, as Laura entered her sixties and Almanzo his seventies, was due largely to the concern and solicitude of Rose, who provided them with an annual $500 income subsidy and who, in a not untypical spendthrift gesture, built them an $11,000 English?style rock cottage across the hill from the sturdy two?story white frame farmhouse that they had lovingly built and expanded over the years with their own hands and the assistance of some local carpenters. After they moved out of their old dwelling, Rose moved in, remaining at Rocky Ridge until 1935, when she moved back East, first to New York City and then to Danbury, Connecticut.
The Depression pinched the family’s finances
The strain showed itself more in Rose than in her parents. They had always managed to live on little, although as old age descended upon them, they increasingly worried about how they would be able to take care of themselves. As paychecks for short stories, novels, and other writing assignments rolled in during the 1920s, she always found ways to spend them on clothes, apartments, cars, and travel. Her approach to money assumed that it was easier to earn more of it than it was to try to save it. So rather than attempting to cut back on expenditures, she pushed herself to churn out ever more material for the book publishers and magazine editors, frantically trying to keep her head above financial water.
The Depression forced Rose to become more realistic about her expectations. There were limits, she began to realize, to what she could do and accomplish. Having built up a substantial nest egg in a New York brokerage account, she received the devastating news in November 1931, that the entire investment had become worthless. 3 During the next several years, while her mother’s writing career began to blossom (thanks in large part to the work that she herself put into editing and revising her mother’s handwritten manuscripts), her own writing career sputtered. She would experience more triumphs, such as the publication in 1932 of Let the Hurricane Roar and in 1938 of Free Land, but their frequency tapered off. Meanwhile, in addition to the financial losses she incurred, she grew increasingly depressed by the aging process, health problems, bad teeth, her realization that no more romances probably awaited her, lack of compatible companionship, and the growing awareness that she was running out of things to say as a fiction?writer plenty of fish. 4 In a journal entry on May 28, she wrote, “Nothing has changed in my circumstances. I am still deep in debt, held here where I hate to be, grown old, losing my teeth, all that-and never anyone knowing I am here, so that I feel forgotten in a living grave.” 5 Rose’s biographer William Holtz notes that she recognized a connection between her own mental depression during the 1930s and the economic Depression that the country was suffering through. 6