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|Laura Ingalls Wilder
author of the Little House series
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born in Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867, the second child of Charles Phillip and Caroline Quiner Ingalls; her siblings were Mary Amelia, Caroline, Grace Pearl, and Charles Jr. (who died at nine months). In 1869, the family relocated to a homestead about twelve miles southeast of Independence, Kansas, but were forced to return to Wisconsin after a year when it was discovered that the homestead was on Indian land. In 1874, the family moved again, this time to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. The family stayed in Walnut Grove until 1876, when it moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, where Charles Ingalls became part-owner of a hotel. The family was back in Walnut Grove by 1877, and was in De Smet, South Dakota, by 1879.
Because she spent much of her childhood moving from place to place, Laura was largely self-educated, but she did attend regular school whenever possible. She received her teaching certificate in 1882, and then spent three years teaching at a country school about twelve miles from her home.
Laura boarded with a family when she was teaching, but a young man named Almanzo Wilder took her to visit her parents on several occasions. Laura and Almanzo were married on August 25, 1885, and their first child, Rose, was born on December 5, 1886. On August 10, 1889, Laura gave birth to a son, but he died a few days later. Not long after this tragedy, Almonzo suffered a severe bout of diphtheria that left him partially paralyzed. Then, the house that Almanzo had built himself burned to the ground. In 1894, the couple left De Smet and moved to Mansfield, Missouri, where they established a successful farm called Rocky Ridge.
While the couple were on the "road" to Mansfield, Laura sent a copy of her account of her and Almanzo's journey to the De Smet News, and it became her first published writing. In the 1920's, Rose Wilder convinced her mother to publish the story of her childhood on the prairie. The result was Pioneer Girl, a first-person account of her life on the frontier from age three to eighteen. Unable to get any publishers interested in the work, Wilder decided to change the story's focus from herself to her family and to break it down into a series of books, with each volume dedicated to a specific period in her family's life. Little House in the Big Woods, based on her life in Pepin, was published in 1932, and it was immediately popular with both children and adults. She would go on to publish a total of eight "Little House" books, as well as Farmer Boy (1933), about Almonzo's childhood in New York State.
Laura Ingalls Wilder died in Mansfield on February 10, 1957. Her daughter became an accomplished author in her own right, as Rose Wilder Lane. On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 was published by Rose in 1962. The television series Little House on the Prairie, loosely based on Laura's time in Walnut Grove, debuted on March 30, 1974, and ran through March 23, 1983.
The "Little House" Series
Little House in the Big Woods
(1932) -- based on Laura's life in Pepin
This page was last updated on 02/07/2017.