Laura Ingalls Wilder, the American author best known for her “Little House” children’s books, was born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin County, Wisconsin. She died in Mansfield, Missouri on February 10, 1957.
1. Parents and Siblings
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s parents, Charles Ingalls and Caroline Quiner were married in Concord Wisconsin on February 1, 1860. They were known as Ma and Pa in the “Little House” books. Mary Amelia, their first daughter was born on January 10, 1865 in Pepin, Wisconsin. Laura became the second child of Charles and Caroline, also born in Pepin, Wisconsin on February 7, 1867. After Laura, Caroline Celestia was born on August 3, 1870 in Montgomery County, Kansas. On November 1, 1875, a son was born to Charles and Caroline in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. They named him Charles Frederick but his nickname was Freddie. At nine-months old, Freddie died. The last child born to Charles and Caroline was Grace Pearl on May 23, 1877 in Burr Oak, Iowa.
2. Childhood Frontier Life
In 1868, Charles and Caroline Ingalls packed up their belongings and two young daughters, moving to Indian Territory, Kansas. After Carries was born, the Ingalls’ moved to another homestead in Kansas but shortly after settling in, they were evicted because the farm was on an Indian reservation. The Ingalls’ left Kansas, moving back to Wisconsin. They lived there for four years. These four years in Wisconsin are depicted in Laura’s two books, “Little House in the Big Woods” and “Little House on the Prairie.”
3. Ma and Pa Move One Last Time
Charles Ingalls became the owner of a homestead in De Smet, South Dakota in 1880. One of the most severe winters in South Dakota takes place in 1881 and is mentioned in Laura’s book, “The Long Winter.” In De Smet, Laura went to school, helped with the chores and helped care for her sister, Mary who went blind after a fever right before the move to South Dakota.
4. Marriage and Children
While living in De Smet, Laura met her future husband, Almonzo Wilder. She referred to Almonzo as Manly. They were married on August 25, 1885 when Laura was 18-years old. Almonzo was 10 years older than Laura. The two newlyweds started their own homestead near De Smet. One year later, on December 5, Laura gave birth to her first child, Rose. Laura and Almonzo also had a son, who died a short time after he was born. He was never named.
5. Hardships for Laura and Almonzo
Losing their infant son was not the only hardships Laura and Almonzo Wilder endured. During the early years of their marriage, Almonzo contracted diphtheria, which left him paralyzed. Eventually, he recovered but had to use a cane for the rest of his life. Their daughter, Rose, accidentally set the house on fire and the Wilder family lost everything. Harsh winters and summer droughts laid waste to their 320-acre farm, leaving them in debt. Laura describes their hardships in her book, “The First Four Years.”
6. A New Home
Laura and Almonzo Wilder left their South Dakota homestead and moved to Mansfield, Missouri with their daughter, Rose in 1984. They bought a small, rundown cabin and Almonzo earned a living selling firewood. Almonzo’s parents gave the couple a house, which helped Laura and Almonzo save enough money to expand their farmland. It took 20 years for the couple to run a successful dairy farm.
7. Lifetime Careers
Laura Ingalls’ first career was a schoolteacher when she was 16-years old. She began teaching on December 10, 1882 in a school with only one room. She taught for three years but never really enjoyed the position. Writing was the career she loved and in 1911, she got her first position as a journalist for the “Missouri Ruralist.” Her column was entitled, “As a Farm Woman Thinks.” Laura’s daughter, Rose, encouraged her mother to writer her “Little House” children’s books.
8. First Autobiographical “Little House” Book
The “Little House” series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder were published by Harper and Brothers and sold for two dollars each. The Minneapolis Journal advertised the first book, “Little House in the Big Woods,” saying, “This small saga of pioneer Wisconsin is a satisfying response to the cry, ‘Grandmother, tell us about when you were a little girl!’ It should be read by all middle border children and by many others. Too few nowadays can tell as real and treasurable a story.” Laura’s first book was published in 1932 and has been in print ever since. Her books have been translated into 40 different languages.
9. Sequels to “Little House in the Big Woods”
After the success of her first children’s book about frontier life, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote seven more books for the series.
- Farmer Boy published in 1933
- Little House on the Prairie published in 1935
- On the Banks of Plum Creek published in 1937
- By the Shores of Silver Lake published in 1939
- The Long Winter published in 1940
- Little Town on the Prairie published in 1941
- These Happy Golden Years published in 1943
10. Instant Fame through Television
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life became known in households throughout the United States when a television series was produced based upon her books. The television series, “Little House on the Prairie” was aired from 1974 to 1983. Reruns of the series continue to be aired on television today.