Great Antidote Extras: Timothy Sandefur on Freedom's Furies

libertarianism ayn rand great depression rose wilder lane isabel paterson

Alice Temnick for AdamSmithWorks

Friends or frenemies? Alice Temnick shares her thoughts on a recent Great Antidote on three of the most influential women authors who thought and wrote deeply about the ideas of liberty: Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand. 
In the early 1900s, three woman in America wrote separately yet similarly on the ideas of liberty. Host Juliette Sellgren guides this terrific discussion about Timothy Sandefur’s most recent book, Freedom’s Furies: How Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand Found Liberty in an Age of Darkness, with particular emphasis on the political and social environment that shaped the times as a lens to connect these three authors and explore the story of their lives and contribution to liberty.  Listen to the episode here

The "Furies" title comes from William F. Buckley who used the mythological reference to suggest a negative or disrupting effect that these three women caused through written persuasion and arguments against the increasingly heavy-handed government intervention of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal era. Each woman published a book, to varying degrees of national impact, in 1943. Sandefur builds our intrigue through his descriptions and insights about these three dynamic women. 

Isabel Paterson was ten years the senior of Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand and was famous in her career as a literary journalist in New York City. Paterson wrote a weekly column and was known for her forceful personality and celebrity status among the influential authors of the time including H.L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis. Raised on the American frontier, Paterson became a self-taught economic and political intellectual who wrote nostalgically for her simpler childhood world. Sandefur reviews her book, The God of the Machine as complicated to read, but highly influential at the time.

Rose Wilder Lane survived a childhood on the American frontier and escaped as soon as she could in her late teens. Famous for her collaboration with her mother on the Little House on the Prairie books, Lane also authored a number of nonfiction and fiction books including Discovery of Freedom. Sandefur applauds this work as an ideal primer on Freedom. 

Ayn Rand authored multiple books including her famous story of the architect, Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Sandefur says he became interested in the style similarities of Main Street and The Fountainhead after learning that Sinclair Lewis was Rand’s favorite author.  Rand had escaped Soviet Russia to find quick success in Hollywood and Broadway with her screenplays and feared the oppression of The New Deal. 

Sellgren wisely asks what perhaps many of us were wondering at this point in the interview, “were these women friends or frenemies?"  Sandefur describes the meeting logistics. Rand and Patterson were pen pals before meeting sometime in the 1930’s. Rand became friends with Patterson in 1940 when asking Patterson to join her group of intellectuals who would offer a scholarly case for individual freedom.  Instead of joining, Patterson mentored Rand, teaching her economics and American political history. Rand and Lane met in person only one time, and corresponded for a few years afterward. 

I became aware of the fact that the three women met each other in person through Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires, published in 2019. My curiosity was piqued. I hope yours is too and that you'll give his episode a listen. 

Want to read more?
Jayme Lemke's Where to start reading about women in the classical liberal tradition?
Rose Wilder Lane's Give Me Liberty
Alice Temnick's Prudence on the Prairie & Rose Wilder Lane and the American Libertarian Movement at AdamSmithWorks
Caroline Breashears, Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and the Power of Stories, at Econlib.
Eric Mack, Two Readings of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, at The OLL Reading Room (also features Sandefur)

Want to listen to more?
Dianne Durante on Innovators in Sculpture and Craig Biddle on Philosophy and Objectivism both Great Antidotes' feature Ayn Rand and her philosophy
Jennifer Burns on Ayn Rand and The Goddess of the Market, an EconTalk podcast
Timothy Sandefur on the Great Antidote talking about Frederick Douglass and/or Privacy