Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder cropped sepia2.jpg
Laura Ingalls Wilder, circa 1885
BornLaura Elizabeth Ingalls
(1867-02-07)February 7, 1867
Pepin County, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedFebruary 10, 1957(1957-02-10) (aged 90)
Mansfield, Missouri, U.S.
OccupationWriter, teacher, journalist, family farmer
Period1911–1957 (as a writer)
GenreDiaries, essays, family saga (children's historical novels)
Subject Midwestern and Western
Notable works
Notable awards Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal
est. 1954
Almanzo Wilder
(m. 1885;died 1949)
  • 2, Unnamed and Rose Wilder Lane

Signature Laura Ingalls Wilder signature.svg

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder ( /ˈɪŋɡəlz/ ; February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) was an American writer known for the Little House on the Prairie series of children's books, published between 1932 and 1943, which were based on her childhood in a settler and pioneer family. [1]

<i>Little House on the Prairie</i> series of childrens books, primarily 9 novels 1932 to 1971; also the American media franchise based on it

The "Little House" Books is a series of American children's novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on her childhood and adolescence in the American Midwest between 1870 and 1894. Eight of the novels were completed by Wilder, and published by Harper & Brothers. The appellation "Little House" books comes from the first and third novels in the series of eight published in her lifetime. The second novel was about her husband's childhood. The first draft of a ninth novel was published posthumously in 1971 and is commonly included in the series.

Settler person who has migrated to an area and established permanent residence there

A settler is a person who has migrated to an area and established a permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. Settlers are generally from a sedentary culture, as opposed to nomads who share and rotate their settlements with little or no concept of individual land ownership. Settlements are often built on land already claimed or owned by another group. Many times settlers are backed by governments or large countries. They also sometimes leave in search of religious freedom.

American pioneer

American pioneers are any of the people in American history who migrated west to join in settling and developing new areas. The term especially refers to those who were going to settle any territory which had previously not been settled or developed by European, African or American society, although the territory was inhabited by or utilized by Native Americans.


During the 1970s and early 1980s, the television series Little House on the Prairie was loosely based on the Little House books, and starred Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as her father, Charles Ingalls. [2]

<i>Little House on the Prairie</i> (TV series) American western drama television series

Little House on the Prairie is an American western drama television series, starring Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, Karen Grassle, and Melissa Sue Anderson, about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. The show is an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books. Television producer and NBC executive Ed Friendly became aware of the story in the early 1970s. He asked Michael Landon to direct the pilot movie. Landon agreed on the condition that he could also play Charles Ingalls.

Melissa Gilbert Actress and director

Melissa Ellen Gilbert is an American actress and television director.

Michael Landon American actor, writer, director, and producer

Michael Landon was an American actor, writer, director, and producer. He is known for his roles as Little Joe Cartwright in Bonanza (1959–1973), Charles Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie (1974–1983), and Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven (1984–1989). Landon appeared on the cover of TV Guide 22 times, second only to Lucille Ball.

Birth and ancestry

Caroline and Charles Ingalls Caroline and Charles Ingalls sepia cropped.jpg
Caroline and Charles Ingalls

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born to Charles Phillip and Caroline Lake (née Quiner) Ingalls on February 7, 1867. At the time of Ingalls' birth, the family lived seven miles north of the village of Pepin, Wisconsin in the Big Woods region of Wisconsin. Ingalls' home in Pepin became the setting for her first book, Little House in the Big Woods . [3] She was the second of five children, following older sister Mary Amelia. [4] [5] [6] [7] Three more children would follow: Caroline Celestia (Carrie), Charles Frederick (who died in infancy), and Grace Pearl. Ingalls Wilder's birth site is commemorated by a replica log cabin at the Little House Wayside in Pepin. [8] Life there formed the basis for her first book, Little House in the Big Woods (1932). [3]

Charles Ingalls Father of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Charles Phillip Ingalls was the father of Laura Ingalls Wilder, known for her Little House series of books. He is depicted as the character "Pa" in the books and the television series.

Caroline Ingalls Mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Caroline Lake Ingalls was the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House books.

Pepin, Wisconsin Village in Wisconsin, United States

Pepin is a village in Pepin County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 837 at the 2010 census. The village is located within the Town of Pepin.

Ingalls was a descendant of the Delano family, the ancestral family of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [9] [10] One paternal ancestor, Edmund Ingalls, from Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, England, emigrated to America, settling in Lynn, Massachusetts. [9]

Delano family family

In the United States, members of the Delano family include U.S. presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, astronaut Alan B. Shepard, and writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. Its progenitor was Philippe de Lannoy (1602–1681). The Pilgrim of Walloon descent arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the early 1620s. His descendants also include Frederic Adrian Delano, Robert Redfield and Paul Delano. Delano family forebears include the Pilgrim who chartered the Mayflower, seven of its passengers and three signers of the Mayflower Compact.

President of the United States Head of state and of government of the United States

The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by the initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the Democratic Party, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II, which ended shortly after he died in office. He is rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but has also been subject to substantial criticism.

She was also a third cousin, once removed, of President Ulysses S. Grant [11]

Ulysses S. Grant 18th president of the United States

Ulysses S. Grant was an American soldier, politician, and international statesman who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. During the American Civil War, General Grant, with President Abraham Lincoln, led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. During the Reconstruction Era, President Grant led the Republicans in their efforts to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism, racism, and slavery.

Family on the move

When she was two years old, Ingalls moved with her family from Wisconsin in 1869. After stopping in Rothville, Missouri, they went on to settle in the Indian country of Kansas, near modern day Independence, Kansas. Her younger sister Carrie was born there in August 1870, not long before they moved again. According to Ingalls Wilder in later years, Ingalls' father had been told that the location would soon be open to white settlers but when they arrived this was not the case; they had no legal right to occupy their homestead as it was on the Osage Indian reservation. They had just begun to farm when they heard rumors that the settlers would be evicted, and they left preemptively in the spring of 1871. Although she portrayed the departure and that of other settlers as prompted by rumors of eviction in both her novel and in her Pioneer Girl memoirs, she also noted that her parents needed to recover their Wisconsin land because the buyer had not paid the mortgage. [12]

Rothville, Missouri Village in Missouri, United States

Rothville is a village in Chariton County, Missouri, United States. The population was 99 at the 2010 census.

Indian country

An Indian country is any of the many self-governing Native American communities throughout the United States. As a legal category, it includes "all land within the limits of any Indian reservation", "all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States", and "all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished." This legal classification defines American Indian tribal and individual land holdings as part of a reservation, an allotment, or a public domain allotment. All federal trust lands held for Native American tribes is Indian country. Federal, state, and local governments use this category in their legal processes. Today, however, according to the U.S. Census of 2010, over 78% of all Native Americans live off reservations. Indian country now spans thousands of rural areas, towns and cities where Indian people live.

Kansas U.S. state in the United States

Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansas River, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native Americans who lived along its banks. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the (south) wind" although this was probably not the term's original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.

From Kansas, the Ingalls family went back to Wisconsin, where they lived for the next three years. Those experiences formed the basis for Ingalls Wilder's future novels Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and Little House on the Prairie (1935). The fictional chronology of her books reverses fact: she was two to four years old in Kansas and four to seven in Wisconsin, while in the novels she is four to five in Wisconsin (Big Woods) and six to seven in Kansas (Prairie). According to a letter from her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, to biographer William Anderson, the publisher had her change her age in the second book because it seemed unrealistic for a three-year-old to have memories so specific about her story of life in Kansas. [13] To be consistent with her already established chronology, she portrayed herself six to seven years old in Little House on the Prairie and seven to nine years old in On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), the third volume of her fictionalized history, which takes place around 1874.

On the Banks of Plum Creek shows the family moving from Kansas to an area near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and settling in a dugout "on the banks of Plum Creek". [14] They moved there from Wisconsin when Ingalls was about seven years old, after briefly living with the family of her Uncle Peter Ingalls, first in their house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and then on rented land near Lake City, Minnesota. In Walnut Grove, the family first lived in a dugout sod house on a preemption claim; after wintering in it, they moved into a new house built on the same land. Two summers of ruined crops led them to move to Iowa. On the way, they stayed again with Charles Ingalls' brother, Peter Ingalls, this time on his farm near South Troy, Minnesota. Her brother, Charles Frederick Ingalls ("Freddie"), was born there on November 1, 1875, dying nine months later in August 1876. In Burr Oak, Iowa, the family helped run a hotel. The youngest of the Ingalls children, Grace, was born there on May 23, 1877.

The family moved from Burr Oak back to Walnut Grove where Charles Ingalls served as the town butcher and justice of the peace. He accepted a railroad job in the spring of 1879, which took him to eastern Dakota Territory, where they joined him that fall. Ingalls Wilder omitted the period in 1876–1877 when they lived near Burr Oak, skipping to Dakota Territory, portrayed in By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939).

De Smet

Surveyor's House, the first home in Dakota Territory of the Charles Ingalls family - De Smet, South Dakota Laura ingalls wilder museum surveyor's house desmet sd.jpg
Surveyor's House, the first home in Dakota Territory of the Charles Ingalls family - De Smet, South Dakota

Wilder's father filed for a formal homestead over the winter of 1879–1880. [15] De Smet, South Dakota, became her parents' and sister Mary's home for the remainder of their lives. After spending the mild winter of 1879–1880 in the surveyor's house, they watched the town of De Smet rise up from the prairie in 1880. The following winter, 1880–1881, one of the most severe on record in the Dakotas, was later described by Ingalls Wilder in her novel, The Long Winter (1940). Once the family was settled in De Smet, Ingalls attended school, worked several part-time jobs, and made friends. Among them was bachelor homesteader Almanzo Wilder. This time in her life is documented in the books Little Town on the Prairie (1941) and These Happy Golden Years (1943).

Young teacher

On December 10, 1882, two months before her 16th birthday, Ingalls accepted her first teaching position. [16] She taught three terms in one-room schools when she was not attending school in De Smet. (In Little Town on the Prairie she receives her first teaching certificate on December 24, 1882, but that was an enhancement for dramatic effect.[ citation needed ]) Her original "Third Grade" teaching certificate can be seen on page 25 of William Anderson's book Laura's Album (1998). [17] She later admitted she did not particularly enjoy it, but felt a responsibility from a young age to help her family financially, and wage-earning opportunities for women were limited. Between 1883 and 1885, she taught three terms of school, worked for the local dressmaker, and attended high school, although she did not graduate.

Early marriage years

Rose Wilder Lane birthplace roadside marker - DeSmet Rose wilder lane birthplace roadside marker.jpg
Rose Wilder Lane birthplace roadside marker - DeSmet
Laura and Almanzo Wilder, circa 1885 Laura and Almanzo Wilder 1885 retouched sepia.jpg
Laura and Almanzo Wilder, circa 1885
Location of Wilder homestead where both of Wilder's children were born - DeSmet Rose wilder lane birthplace desmet sd 2b.jpg
Location of Wilder homestead where both of Wilder's children were born - DeSmet

Ingalls' teaching career and studies ended when the 18-year-old Laura married 28-year-old Almanzo Wilder on August 25, 1885. [18] From the beginning of their relationship, the pair had nicknames for each other: she called him "Manly" and he, because he had a sister named Laura, called her "Bess", from her middle name, Elizabeth. [18] Almanzo had achieved a degree of prosperity on his homestead claim; [19] the newly married couple started their life together in a new home, north of De Smet.[ citation needed ]

On December 5, 1886, Wilder gave birth to her daughter, Rose.[ citation needed ] In 1889, she gave birth to a son who died at 12 days of age before being named. He was buried at De Smet, Kingsbury County, South Dakota. [20] [21] On the grave marker, he is remembered as "Baby Son of A. J. Wilder". [22]

Their first few years of marriage were difficult. Complications from a life-threatening bout of diphtheria left Almanzo partially paralyzed. Although he eventually regained nearly full use of his legs, he needed a cane to walk for the remainder of his life. This setback, among many others, began a series of unfortunate events that included the death of their newborn son, the destruction of their barn along with its hay and grain by a mysterious fire, [23] the total loss of their home from a fire accidentally set by Rose, [24] and several years of severe drought that left them in debt, physically ill, and unable to earn a living from their 320 acres (129.5 hectares) of prairie land. These trials were documented in Wilder's book The First Four Years (published in 1971). Around 1890, they left De Smet and spent about a year resting at the home of Almanzo's parents on their Spring Valley, Minnesota, farm before moving briefly to Westville, Florida, in search of a climate to improve Almanzo's health. They found, however, that the dry plains they were used to were very different from the humidity they encountered in Westville. The weather, along with feeling out of place among the locals, encouraged their return to De Smet in 1892, where they purchased a small home.[ citation needed ]

Move to Mansfield, Missouri

Rocky Ridge Farm, Mansfield, Missouri LauraIngallsWilder-RockyRidgeFarm-MansfieldMO adjusted.jpg
Rocky Ridge Farm, Mansfield, Missouri

In 1894, the Wilders moved to Mansfield, Missouri, and used their savings to make the down payment on an undeveloped property just outside town. They named the place Rocky Ridge Farm [25] and moved into a ramshackle log cabin. At first, they earned income only from wagon loads of fire wood they would sell in town for 50 cents. Financial security came slowly. Apple trees they planted did not bear fruit for seven years. Almanzo's parents visited around that time and gave them the deed to the house they had been renting in Mansfield, which was the economic boost Wilder's family needed. They then added to the property outside town, and eventually accrued nearly 200 acres (80.9 hectares). Around 1910, they sold the house in town, moved back to the farm, and completed the farmhouse with the proceeds. What began as about 40 acres (16.2 hectares) of thickly wooded, stone-covered hillside with a windowless log cabin became in 20 years a relatively prosperous poultry, dairy, and fruit farm, and a 10-room farmhouse.[ citation needed ]

The Wilders had learned from cultivating wheat as their sole crop in De Smet. They diversified Rocky Ridge Farm with poultry, a dairy farm, and a large apple orchard. Wilder became active in various clubs and was an advocate for several regional farm associations. She was recognized as an authority in poultry farming and rural living, which led to invitations to speak to groups around the region. [26]

Writing career

An invitation to submit an article to the Missouri Ruralist in 1911 led to Wilder's permanent position as a columnist and editor with that publication, which she held until the mid-1920s. She also took a paid position with the local Farm Loan Association, dispensing small loans to local farmers.

Wilder's column in the Ruralist, "As a Farm Woman Thinks", introduced her to a loyal audience of rural Ozarkians, who enjoyed her regular columns. Her topics ranged from home and family, including her 1915 trip to San Francisco, California, to visit Rose Lane and the Pan-Pacific exhibition, to World War I and other world events, and to the fascinating world travels of Lane as well as her own thoughts on the increasing options offered to women during this era. While the couple were never wealthy until the "Little House" books began to achieve popularity, the farming operation and Wilder's income from writing and the Farm Loan Association provided them with a stable living.

"[By] 1924", according to the Professor John E. Miller, "[a]fter more than a decade of writing for farm papers, Wilder had become a disciplined writer, able to produce thoughtful, readable prose for a general audience." At this time, her now-married daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, helped her publish two articles describing the interior of the farmhouse, in Country Gentleman magazine. [27]

It was also around this time that Lane began intensively encouraging Wilder to improve her writing skills with a view toward greater success as a writer than Lane had already achieved. [28] The Wilders, according to Miller, had come to "[depend] on annual income subsidies from their increasingly famous and successful daughter." They both had concluded that the solution for improving their retirement income was for Wilder to become a successful writer herself. However, the "project never proceeded very far." [29]

In 1928, Lane hired out the construction of an English-style stone cottage for her parents on property adjacent to the farmhouse they had personally built and still inhabited. She remodeled and took it over. [30]

Little House books

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 wiped the Wilders out; Lane's investments were devastated as well. They still owned the 200-acre (81-hectare) farm, but they had invested most of their savings with Lane's broker. In 1930, Wilder requested Lane's opinion about an autobiographical manuscript she had written about her pioneering childhood. The Great Depression, coupled with the deaths of Wilder's mother in 1924 and her older sister in 1928, seem to have prompted her to preserve her memories in a life story called Pioneer Girl. She also hoped that her writing would generate some additional income. The original title of the first of the books was When Grandma Was a Little Girl. [31] On the advice of Lane's publisher, she greatly expanded the story. As a result of Lane's publishing connections as a successful writer and after editing by her, Harper & Brothers published Wilder's book in 1932 as Little House in the Big Woods. After its success, she continued writing. The close and often rocky collaboration between her and Lane continued, in person until 1935, when Lane permanently left Rocky Ridge Farm, and afterward by correspondence.

The collaboration worked both ways: two of Lane's most successful novels, Let the Hurricane Roar (1932) and Free Land (1938), were written at the same time as the "Little House" series and basically retold Ingalls and Wilder family tales in an adult format. [32]

Authorship controversy

Some, including Lane's biographer, William Holtz, have alleged that Wilder's daughter was her ghostwriter. [33] Existing evidence includes ongoing correspondence between the women about the books' development, Lane's extensive diaries, and Wilder's handwritten manuscripts with edit notations shows an ongoing collaboration between the two women.[ citation needed ]

Miller, using this record, describes varying levels of involvement by Lane. Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and These Happy Golden Years (1943), he notes, received the least editing. "The first pages ... and other large sections of [Big Woods]", he observes, "stand largely intact, indicating ... from the start ...[Laura's] talent for narrative description." [34] Some volumes saw heavier participation by Lane, [35] while The First Four Years (1971) appears to be exclusively a Wilder work. [36] Concludes Miller, "In the end, the lasting literary legacy remains that of the mother more than that of the daughter ... Lane possessed style; Wilder had substance." [32]

The controversy over authorship is often tied to the movement to read the Little House series through an ideological lens. Lane emerged in the 1930s as an avowed conservative polemicist and critic of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration and his New Deal programs. According to a 2012 article in the New Yorker, "When Roosevelt was elected, she noted in her diary, 'America has a dictator.' She prayed for his assassination, and considered doing the job herself." [37] Whatever Lane's politics, "attacks on [Wilder's] authorship seem aimed at infusing her books with ideological passions they just don't have." [38]

Enduring appeal

The original Little House books, written for elementary school-age children, became an enduring, eight-volume record of pioneering life late in the 19th century based on the Ingalls family's experiences on the American frontier. The First Four Years, about the early days of the Wilder marriage, was discovered by her literary executor Roger MacBride after Lane's 1968 death and published in 1971, unedited by Lane or MacBride. It is now marketed as the ninth volume. [36]

Since the publication of Little House in the Big Woods (1932), the books have been continuously in print and have been translated into 40 other languages. Wilder's first — and smallest — royalty check from Harper, in 1932, was for $500, equivalent to $9,180in 2018. By the mid-1930s the royalties from the Little House books brought a steady and increasingly substantial income to the Wilders for the first time in their 50 years of marriage. The collaboration also brought the two writers at Rocky Ridge Farm the money they needed to recoup the loss of their investments in the stock market. Various honors, huge amounts of fan mail, and other accolades were bestowed on Wilder.[ citation needed ]

Autobiography: Pioneer Girl

In 1929–1930, already in her early 60s, Wilder began writing her autobiography, titled Pioneer Girl. It was rejected by publishers. At Lane's urging, she rewrote most of her stories for children. The result was the Little House series of books. In 2014, the South Dakota State Historical Society published an annotated version of Wilder's autobiography, titled Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. [39] [40]

Pioneer Girl includes stories that Wilder felt were inappropriate for children: e.g., a man accidentally immolating himself while drunk, and an incident of extreme violence of a local shopkeeper against his wife, which ended with his setting their house on fire. She also describes previously unknown facets of her father's character. According to its publisher, "Wilder's fiction, her autobiography, and her real childhood are all distinct things, but they are closely intertwined." The book's aim was to explore the differences, including incidents with conflicting or non-existing accounts in one or another of the sources. [41]

Political views

Wilder has been referred to as one of America's first libertarians. [42] She was originally a life-long Democrat, but became dismayed with Roosevelt's New Deal and what she and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, saw as Americans' increasing dependence on the federal government. Wilder grew disenchanted with her party and resented government agents who came to farms like hers and grilled farmers about the number of acres they were planting. [43] Her daughter was similarly strongly libertarian. [44] [45] [46]

Later life and death

Upon Lane's departure from Rocky Ridge Farm, Laura and Almanzo moved back into the farmhouse they had built, which had most recently been occupied by friends. [30] From 1935 on, they were alone at Rocky Ridge Farm. Most of the surrounding area (including the property with the stone cottage Lane had built for them) was sold, but they still kept some farm animals, and tended their flower beds and vegetable gardens. Almost daily, carloads of fans stopped by, eager to meet the "Laura" of the Little House books.

The Wilders lived independently and without financial worries until Almanzo's death at the farm in 1949 at age 92. Wilder remained on the farm. For the next eight years, she lived alone, looked after by a circle of neighbors and friends. She continued an active correspondence with her editors, fans, and friends during these years.

Gravesite of Laura Ingalls Wilder and husband Almanzo Wilder at Mansfield Cemetery, Mansfield, Missouri. Buried next to them is daughter Rose Wilder Lane. Almanzo and Laura Wilder gravesite Mansfield MO.jpg
Gravesite of Laura Ingalls Wilder and husband Almanzo Wilder at Mansfield Cemetery, Mansfield, Missouri. Buried next to them is daughter Rose Wilder Lane.

In autumn 1956, 89-year-old Wilder became severely ill from undiagnosed diabetes and cardiac issues. She was hospitalized by Lane, who had arrived for Thanksgiving. She was able to return home on the day after Christmas. However, her health declined after her release from the hospital, and she died at home in her sleep on February 10, 1957, three days after her 90th birthday. [47] She was buried beside Almanzo at Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield. Lane was buried next to them upon her death in 1968. [48] [49]


Following Wilder's death, possession of Rocky Ridge Farm passed to the farmer who had earlier bought the property under a life lease arrangement. [50] The local population put together a non-profit corporation to purchase the house and its grounds for use as a museum. [51] After some wariness at the notion of seeing the house rather than the books be a shrine to Wilder, Lane came to believe that making a museum of it would draw long-lasting attention to the books. She donated the money needed to purchase the house and make it a museum, agreed to make significant contributions each year for its upkeep, and donated many of her parents' belongings. [52]

In compliance with Wilder's will, Lane inherited ownership of the Little House literary estate, with the stipulation that it be for only her lifetime, with all rights reverting to the Mansfield library after her death. Following her demise in 1968, her heir, Roger MacBride, gained control of the books' copyrights. He was like an informally adopted son or grandson to her (one of several younger men with whom she had such a relationship), [53] as well as her business agent and lawyer. All of his actions before Lane's death carried her apparent approval; at her request, the copyrights to each of Wilder's "Little House" books, as well as those of Lane's own literary works, had been renewed in his name when the original copyrights expired, during the decade between Wilder's and Lane's deaths.[ citation needed ] Nonetheless, many scholars and other readers consider his means of gaining control of the literary estate to have been shady at best, as well as going against Wilder's wishes. His commercialization of the books is also widely considered to have cheapened their literary merit. [54]

Controversy arose following MacBride's death in 1995, when the Laura Ingalls Wilder Branch of the Wright County Library in Mansfield — the library founded in part by Wilder — decided it was worth trying to recover the rights. The ensuing court case was settled in an undisclosed manner, but MacBride's heirs retained the rights to Wilder's books. From the settlement, the library received enough to start work on a new building.[ citation needed ] [55]

The popularity of the Little House books has grown over the years following Wilder's death, spawning a multimillion-dollar franchise of mass merchandising under MacBride's impetus.[ citation needed ] Results of the franchise have included additional spinoff book series[ citation needed ] — some written by MacBride and his daughter, Abigail  — and the long-running television series, starring Melissa Gilbert as Wilder and Michael Landon as her father.


Because she died in 1957, Wilder's works are now public domain in countries where the term of copyright lasts 50 years after the author's death, or less; generally this does not include works first published posthumously. Works first published before 1924 or where copyright was not renewed, primarily her newspaper columns, are also public domain in the United States.[ citation needed ]

Little House books

The eight "original" Little House books were published by Harper & Brothers with illustrations by Helen Sewell (the first three) or by Sewell and Mildred Boyle.

Other works



Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder (February 2015) is a one-hour documentary film that looks at the life of Wilder. Wilder's story as a writer, wife, and mother is explored through interviews with scholars and historians, archival photography, paintings by frontier artists, and dramatic reenactments.

Historic sites and museums

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society - De Smet, SD Laura ingalls wilder memorial society museum grounds.jpg
Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society - De Smet, SD

Portrayals on screen and stage

Multiple adaptations of Wilder's Little House on the Prairie book series have been produced for screen and stage. In them, the following actresses have portrayed Wilder:

Wilder Medal

Wilder was five times a runner-up for the annual Newbery Medal, the premier American Library Association (ALA) book award for children's literature. [lower-alpha 1] In 1954, the ALA inaugurated a lifetime achievement award for children's writers and illustrators, named for Wilder, of which she was the first recipient. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal recognizes a living author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made "a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children". As of 2013, it has been conferred nineteen times, biennially starting in 2001. [74] In 2018, the award was renamed the Children's Literature Legacy Award in light of alleged racist language in Wilder's works which the Association perceived as biased against Native Americans and African Americans. [75]


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The First Four Years is an autobiographical novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1971 and commonly considered the last of nine books in the Little House series. The series had initially concluded at eight children's novels following Wilder to mature age and her marriage with Almanzo Wilder.

<i>By the Shores of Silver Lake</i> American childrens novel, 1939, fifth in the Little House series

By the Shores of Silver Lake is an autobiographical children's novel written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published in 1939, the fifth of nine books in her Little House series. It spans just over one year, beginning when she is 12 years old and her family moves from Plum Creek, Minnesota to what will become De Smet, South Dakota.

<i>Little Town on the Prairie</i> American childrens novel, 1941, seventh in the Little House series

Little Town on the Prairie is an autobiographical children's novel written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published in 1941, the seventh of nine books in her Little House series. It is set in De Smet, South Dakota. It opens in the spring after the Long Winter, and ends as Wilder becomes a schoolteacher so she can help her sister, Mary, stay at a school for the blind in Vinton, Iowa. It tells the story of 15-year-old Wilder's first paid job outside of home and her last terms of schooling. At the end of the novel, she receives a teacher's certificate, and is employed to teach at the Brewster settlement, 12 miles (19 km) away.

<i>On the Way Home</i> journal of 1894 migration from South Dakota to Missouri, sometimes considered a Little House book

On the Way Home is the diary of an American farm wife, Laura Ingalls Wilder, during her 1894 migration with husband Almanzo Wilder and seven-year-old daughter Rose from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri, where they settled permanently.

<i>West from Home</i> letters home during 1915 travel west to San Francisco

West from Home is a collection of letters sent by the American journalist Laura Ingalls Wilder to her husband Almanzo Wilder in 1915, published by Harper & Row in 1974 with the subtitle Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915. It was edited by Roger MacBride, the literary executor of their daughter Rose Wilder Lane, and provided with a historical "setting by Margot Patterson Doss". Wilder had been sent to San Francisco to write about the 1915 World's Fair and she visited Rose, who lived in that city, when she was 48 years old and Rose 28.

Laura Ingalls Wilder House United States historic place

The Laura Ingalls Wilder House is a historic house museum at 3060 Highway A in Mansfield, Missouri. Also known as Rocky Ridge Farm, it was the home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder from 1896 until her death in 1957. The author of the Little House on the Prairie series, Wilder began writing the series while living there. The house, together with the nearby Rock Cottage on the same property, represents one of the few surviving places where she resided. Shortly after her death local residents initiated legal steps to acquire the house through the incorporation of a non-profit organization to preserve her legacy. Owned by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association, the house is open to the public for tours. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

<i>A Little House Traveler</i> autobiographical collection, 2006, including The Road Back, a previously unpublished journal of a 1931 trip to De Smet, South Dakota

A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Journeys Across America is a collection of early writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House series of children's novels. It consists of three parts: On the Way Home, a diary originally published in 1962; West from Home, a collection of letters from Wilder to her husband Almanzo Wilder written in 1915 and published in 1974; and The Road Back, a previously unpublished diary.

<i>Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder</i> 2015 film by Dean Butler

Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a one-hour documentary film about the life of American author Laura Ingalls Wilder, best known for her Little House on the Prairie book series.



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Five times from 1938 to 1944 Wilder was one of the runners-up for the American Library Association Newbery Medal, recognizing the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". The honored works were the last five of eight books in the Little House series that were published in her lifetime. [73]


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  4. Benge, Janet and Geoff (2005). Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Storybook Life. YWAM Publishing. p. 180. ISBN   1-932096-32-9.
  5. "What Really Caused Mary Ingalls to Go Blind?". February 4, 2013. American Academy of Pediatrics. Press release announcing Allexan, et al.:
    Allexan, Sarah S.; Byington, Carrie L.; Finkelstein, Jerome I.; Tarini, Beth A. (March 1, 2013). "Blindness in Walnut Grove: How Did Mary Ingalls Lose Her Sight?". Pediatrics. 131 (3): 404–06. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1438. PMC   4074664 . PMID   23382439.
  6. Dell'Antonia, KJ (February 4, 2013). "Scarlet Fever Probably Didn't Blind Mary Ingalls". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
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  9. 1 2 Gormley, Myra Vanderpool; Rhonda R. McClure. "A Genealogical Look at Laura Ingalls Wilder". Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  10. "Eunice Sleeman". Edmund Rice (1638) Association ( 2002. Retrieved April 20, 2010. Eunice Sleeman was the mother of Eunice Blood (1782–1862), the wife of Nathan Colby (born 1778), who were the parents of Laura Louise Colby Ingalls (1810–1883), Ingalls' paternal grandmother
  11. "Famous Descendants".
  12. Kaye, Frances W. (2000). "Little Squatter on the Osage Diminished Reserve: Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Kansas Indians". Great Plains Quarterly. 20 (2): 123–140.
  13. Anderson, William (1990). Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Iowa Story, pp. 1–2. Burr Oak, IA: L.I.W. Park & Museum.
  14. "Laura Ingalls Wilder Timeline". Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; National Archives and Records Administration ( Archived from the original on October 25, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. "Land Records: Ingalls Homestead File". National Archives. August 15, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
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  18. 1 2 Wilder, Laura Ingalls; Wilder, Almanzo (1974). West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915. HarperCollins. p. xvii.
  19. Ketcham, Sallie (September 16, 2014). Laura Ingalls Wilder: American Writer on the Prairie. Routledge. ISBN   9781136725739.
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  21. "De Smet Info". Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  22. "Find a Grave Marker #6847". Find A Grave. November 7, 1999. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  23. Miller 1998, p. 80.
  24. Miller 1998, p. 84.
  25. "Laura's Life on Rocky Ridge Farm". Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum. November 5, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  26. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (2007). Hines, Stephen W. (ed.). Laura Ingalls Wilder, farm journalist : writings from the Ozarks. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. ISBN   978-0826266156. OCLC   427509646.
  27. Miller 1998, p. 161.
  28. Miller 1998, p. 162.
  29. Miller 2008, p. 24.
  30. 1 2 Miller 1998, p. 177.
  31. Hines-Dochterman, Meredith (September 30, 2005). "Students visiting Wilder's prairie". St. Joseph News-Press.
  32. 1 2 Miller 2008, p. 40.
  33. Holtz 1993.[ full citation needed ]
  34. Miller 1998, pp. 6, 190.
  35. Miller 2008, pp. 37 et seq.
  36. 1 2 Thurman, Judith (August 10, 2009). "Wilder Women: The mother and daughter behind the Little House stories". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  37. Thurman, Judith (August 16, 2012). "A Libertarian House on the Prairie". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  38. Fraser, Caroline (2012). ""Little House on the Prairie": Tea Party manifesto". Los Angeles Review of Books. October 10, 2012, reprint at Salon ( Retrieved February 8, 2015.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  39. 1 2 "Pioneer Girl is out!". November 21, 2014. Pioneer Girl Project ( South Dakota Historical Society Press. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  40. Higgins, Jim (December 5, 2014). "Laura Ingalls Wilder's annotated autobiography, 'Pioneer Girl,' shows writer's world, growth". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel . Retrieved December 23, 2014.
  41. Flood, Alison (August 25, 2014). "Laura Ingalls Wilder memoir reveals truth behind Little House on the Prairie". The Guardian . Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  42. Boaz, David (May 9, 2015). "The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, One of America's First Libertarians". Time . Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  43. Klein, Christopher (February 7, 2014). "Little Libertarians on the Prairie: The Hidden Politics Behind a Children's Classic". Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  44. Blakemore, Erin (April 8, 2016). "Politics on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane". Daily Jstor. Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  45. Klein, Christopher (February 7, 2014). "Little Libertarians on the Prairie: The Hidden Politics Behind a Children's Classic". Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  46. McElroy, Wendy (April 2, 2019). "The Little House on the Prairie of Laura Ingalls Wilder". Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  47. "Laura I. Wilder, Author, Dies at 90. Writer of the 'Little House' Series for Children Was an Ex-Newspaper Editor. Wrote First Book at 65". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 12, 1957. Retrieved October 24, 2012. Mrs. Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the 'Little House' series of children's books, died yesterday at her farm near here after a long illness. Her age was 90.
    Article preview. Article available only by subscription or purchase. (subscription required)
  48. "Find A Grave". Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  49. "Find A Grave". Rose Wilder Lane. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  50. Holtz 1995, pp. 334, 338.
  51. "Mansfield Plans Wilder Museum". Springfield News & Leader. February 24, 1957.
  52. Holtz 1995, p. 340.
  53. See Carolyn Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Henry Holt and Co., 2017. Also see William Holtz, The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane. University of Missouri Press, 1995.
  54. See Carolyn Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Henry Holt and Co., 2017.
  55. Strait, Jefferson (April 28, 2001). "Wilder library on verge of settlement". Springfield News-Leader.
  56. "On the Way Home: The Diary Of A Trip From South Dakota To Mansfield, Missouri, In 1894". Kirkus Reviews. November 1, 1962. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  57. "West From Home: Letters Of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915". Kirkus Reviews. March 1, 1974. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  58. Wilder, Laura (1991). Hines, Stephen W. (ed.). Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings. Nashville: T. Nelson. ISBN   0883659689.
  59. "Little House in the Ozarks". Kirkus Reviews. July 15, 1991. Retrieved October 2, 2015. "Wilder was an experienced journalist; many of her articles, often written for a publication called Farmer's Week, described her life on the farm where she and Almanzo had finally settled".
  60. 1 2 "A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings by Laura Ingalls Wilder". Kirkus Reviews. December 15, 1997. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  61. Wilder, Laura Ingalls (2006). Hines, Stephen W. (ed.). Writings to young women from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nashville, Tenn.: Tommy Nelson. ISBN   1400307848. OCLC   62341531.
  62. "The Selected Letters Of Laura Ingalls Wilder". Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  63. "Laura Ingalls Wilder Farm Journalist". Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  64. Wilder, Laura (1998). Hines, Stephen W (ed.). Laura Ingalls Wilder's fairy poems. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group. ISBN   9780385325332. OCLC   37361669.
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  69. "Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant".
  70. "Home". Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum ( Retrieved February 24, 2008.
  71. "Home". Little House on the Prairie Museum ( Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  72. "Wilder Homestead, Boyhood Home of Almanzo". Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  73. "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". ALSC. ALA.
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-03-08.
  74. "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
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  75. "Association removes Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from award". AP News. Associated Press. June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  76. "Laura Ingalls Wilder's 148th Birthday" . Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  77. "2006". Retrieved May 14, 2019.

Works cited

Further reading


Electronic editions