Are you a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, lover of western U.S. history or writer of family history? You’ll love our exclusive interview with Pamela Smith Hill, editor of the new Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography Pioneer Girl.
Laura wrote this never-before-published autobiography in the 1930s. She scrawled “Pioneer Girl” across the cover of a dime store paper tablet. Then she filled it with detailed recollections of family, neighbors, wagon trains and homesteads: memories of pioneering in an American West that was fading away.
For someone raised on the gentler Little House re-tellings, Laura’s straightforward stories are intriguing and sometimes stunning, as are the behind-the-scenes look at Laura’s life that Pamela offers. I was riveted by the real story behind Jack the Brindle dog! And then, as an accomplished writer and editor, Pamela shares ways that all of us can improve how we share our family history stories. If you’ve been yearning to write your family’s story, this is a must-listen episode.
I had the very good fortune of visiting the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO) last week. It was icing on the cake to see the treasure trove of historical artifacts in person that were detailed in the Little House books, and that Pamela brought to life even further through her annotations in Pioneer Girl.”
The Genealogy Gems Book Club brings you exclusive interviews with authors of fabulous books that anyone who loves family history will love. We feature a new title each quarter: best-selling fiction, non-fiction, memoir–anything that resonates with those who love history and themes about family and personal identity. Click here to see titles we’ve recommended in the past and hear excerpts of author interviews.
About Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership The The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast is one of the perks of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. For one low annual fee, members can listen to the monthly podcast–and all previous episodes. These are archived in the members-only area of our website along with more than 2 dozen Premium member-only videos on genealogy research strategies, organization, technology tools (like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and cloud computing) and more. Premium members can access Premium episode 127 through iTunes, the Genealogy Gems app (for iPhone/iPad or Android users) or on our new mobile-friendly website. Click here to learn more!
Last week was the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among the amazing women in World War II was a reporter whose story of the bombing of Honolulu was so vivid the editor wouldn’t publish it. She went on to become a spy.
Reporter Betty McIntosh was working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on December 7, 1941, when the bombs started falling. Pearl Harbor was the main target–and the one everyone remembers–but the city felt the attack, too. Civilians, including children, were among the casualties.
A week later, Betty wrote an article recounting the recent horrors. Her goal was to warn women what might be coming in other places, now that the U.S. was at war. But her editor killed the article, saying it was too graphic. That’s according to the Washington Post, which finally ran the article, in full, 71 years later.
“For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.”
That’s just the beginning. She goes on to recount that as soon as she heard the news on the radio that Sunday morning, she reported to work. (Click here to hear a radio broadcast announcement from Honolulu to the mainland, announcing the attack.)
Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.
She saw the planes diving into the harbor and plumes of black smoke. Then, a nearby rooftop shot into the air.
“For the first time, I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you. It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.”
(Click here to see images of the London Blitz, and here to see intense images from Pearl Harbor at the Huffington Post website.)
In the article, Betty goes on to describe the destruction to her neighborhood business district, and the chaos at the emergency room which she was assigned to cover. The aftermath wasn’t a calm after the storm, either:
“Sunday after dusk there was the all-night horror of attack in the dark. Sirens shrieking, sharp, crackling police reports and the tension of a city wrapped in fear….Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, buy pinworm medication there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy.”
Video Interview: Betty looks back at Pearl Harbor
The Response of Women in WWII
At the end of the article, Betty describes the frantic calls that began pouring in to the newsroom where she worked. They were from women, “wanting to know what they could do during the day, when husbands and brothers were away and there was nothing left but to listen to the radio and imagine that all hell had broken out on another part of the island. It was then that I realized how important women can be in a war-torn world.”
Betty McIntosh, reporter, spy, CIA employee
She ends by saying, “There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do,” and names the Red Cross, canteens, and evacuation areas as places that needed women’s help. What Betty didn’t name was what she decided to do next: become a spy.
Witnessing the bombing of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor changed Betty, says the Washington Post. She became “restless,” wanting to do something different. So she joined the Office of Strategic Services and used her literary talents and knowledge of Japanese to spread misinformation to the enemy, including to enemy soldiers, to make them want to surrender more easily.
After the war, Betty went on to work for the CIA until she retired. You can read her biography, here. She died at age 100 in 2015.
What a story. What a woman!
“There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do.” – Betty McIntosh
5 Posts to Help You Put Together Your Own Gripping Family Stories
Did you notice the many different sources threaded through this story? Images, news articles, oral histories, a YouTube interview, a radio broadcast clip? Your own family stories can often be fleshed out with all these different types of media. Click below for inspiring tips and how-tos.
Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? Look below for early Australian settlers, Canadian military and vital records, the 1925 Iowa State Census and a fascinating collection of old New York City photographs.
CANADIAN WWI MILITARY RECORDS. As of June 15, 162,570 of 640,000 files are available online via the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database on the Library and Archives Canada website. This is the first installment of an ongoing effort to digitize and place online records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force service files.
IOWA STATE CENSUS. About 5.5 million newly-added records from the 1925 state census of Iowa are now free to search at FamilySearch,org. Name, residence, gender, age and marital status are indexed. The linked images may also reveal parents’ birthplaces, owners of a home or farm and name of head of household.
NEW YORK CITY PHOTOGRAPHS. About 16,000 photos of old New York City from the New York Historical Society are free to view on Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York. According to the site, “The extensive photograph collections at the New-York Historical Society are particularly strong in portraits and documentary images of New York-area buildings and street scenes from 1839 to 1945, although contemporary photography continues to be collected.”