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Rand Sought Salve for "Ideological Loneliness" in Rose Wilder Lane

Rand Sought Salve for "Ideological Loneliness" in Rose Wilder Lane

4 Mins
December 5, 2016

Among the women writing about liberty who captured the fancy of Ayn Rand was Rose Wilder Lane.


Some may know her name from the popular "Little House" book series, which chronicled the life of Lane's parents, Laura and Almanzo Wilder.

But Lane also wrote about the perils of collectivism, carving her own path as journalist and intellectual.  

Lane, Rand and their friend Isabel Paterson, were dubbed by conservative William F. Buckley the "three furies" of libertarianism.  While Buckley, a fierce and unfair critic of Rand, may have meant the moniker pejoratively, the classic furies of Greek mythology fought for justice, which these three iconic leading ladies of liberty certainly did, each in their own way.

This power trio of women acted as a force to shift the American conservative movement. And their brashness also opened doors "to sidestep the many cultural restrictions that guided proper conduct for women," wrote noted Stanford historian Jennifer Burns in a Dec.

15 piece she penned for the Journal of American History comparing and contrasting the three.

"Though Lane, Paterson, and Rand were performing the traditional women’s work of community building and

maintenance, the extremity and urgency of the libertarian critique gave these women a space to flex and even violate the boundaries of conventional gender roles," Burns wrote.


"In the service of libertarianism, Lane, Paterson, and Rand could be angry, aggressive, pushy, rude, outspoken— freely displaying a host of characteristics and emotions usually denied to women in polite company. Moreover, within the libertarian subculture, they were granted a measure of intellectual authority that would have been difficult for them to achieve elsewhere, both by virtue of their gender and their education," Burns added.

Through their correspondence and friendship, the three were, in Paterson’s words, “setting a new fashion in females.”

In a 1936 essay, published in the Saturday Evening Post, titled "Give Me Liberty," Lane echoed Rand: "Individualism has the strength to resist all attacks."

Her powerful conclusion was in response to the global rise of socialism that she had seen firsthand during travels abroad, and her enthusiastic rationale for freedom from oppression. She had once approved of communism and its stated goal of helping people. But that quickly changed and she embraced a

hands-off, free markets, personal responsibility philosophy. And wrote about it fearlessly.

Perhaps their fractious childhoods, complex personal lives and drive to make something of themselves were the reasons for Rand and Wilder's bond.

Stephen Cox, a distinguished professor of English literature at the University of California San Diego, who has written extensively about Rand as well as Paterson, describes their connection this way.

"I would characterize their relationship as a brief flurry of interest of two writers for each other," Cox told the Atlas Society. "Both were ideologically lonely and welcomed any kindred spirits — for a while. The lack of later relationship says a great deal about their concentration on their own ideas."


Wilder, whose birthday is Dec. 5 — she died in her sleep 1968 at 81 — kept what records reveal was a friendly relationship with Rand in the mid 1940s, which was charted in the posthumous release of Rand's personal correspondence.

In The Letters of Ayn Rand, published in 1995, it is clear that the founder of Objectivism was fond of Lane personally and of her work. She was also appreciative of Lane's support.

In correspondence dated Oct. 9 1946, Rand expresses warmth toward Lane for her favorable review of "The Fountainhead."

"Thank you with all my heart in more ways than just literary for the two great mentions you gave me in your September issue. The thing that meant a great deal to me was the fact that you told me privately that you liked my pieces … and then you also said it in print. I consider that an action of great professional integrity. You see, I am slightly embittered at this point. I have known several persons who paid me high compliments in private correspondence and conversations, but carefully avoided doing so in print. It is an attitude I was never able to understand, so your action made me feel better about people in general," Rand told Lane.

Rand concluded with an endearment that shows a softer side that is oftenly portrayed by her critics:  

"All my love, darling — and also, which is more important, all my philosophy — if you'll use it."

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