Abstract

Over the past century films and literature have reflected and reinforced popular understandings of homesteading and contemporary cultural currents. In the 1910s Elinore Pruitt Stewart's Letters of a Woman Homesteader and Oscar Micheaux's The Homesteader minimized the hardships and exaggerated the benefits of homesteading. In the 1920s Ole Rølvaag's Giants in the Earth reflected the public's reduced faith in homesteading and rural life. In the 1930s the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane reflected conservative opposition to the New Deal. Mid-twentieth-century western novels and films about homesteaders reflected Cold War tensions and family values. Influenced by the women's movement, the 1979 film Heartland highlighted the strength of women homesteaders. Early in the 1990s a back-to-the-land movement called “homesteading” flourished. The Hollywood blockbuster, Far and Away, and reality television programs like Frontier House tapped into this fascination with returning to the land and living as homesteaders did.

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