Meet Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, in a Wisconsin log cabin, the second child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. With her parents and sisters, she traveled by covered wagon to Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, back to Minnesota, and finally to the Dakota Territory in 1879. The twelve-year-old Laura and her father would have happily gone further west, but Caroline insisted that they stay put so that the children could get an education. Charles filed a claim on 160 acres of land three miles southeast of what is now DeSmet, South Dakota.

Laura worked hard in school, showing great interest in English, history, and poetry, and at the early age of 15 she received a certificate to teach. Moving twelve miles away from her family was hard, and she was grateful when a young man named Almanzo Wilder offered to drive his sleigh each weekend to bring her home. They were married in 1885, when Laura was 18. Their daughter, Rose, was born in 1886. Farming life was no easier for the newlyweds than it had been for Laura’s parents, and Laura and Almanzo moved several times before finally settling and building Rocky Ridge Farm, in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.

When she was a little girl, Laura’s father would take her on his knee after supper and tell wonderful stories about bears and panthers and little boys who sneaked out to go sledding on the Sabbath. She would drift off to sleep in her trundle bed, hearing Father play his fiddle. Laura Ingalls Wilder knew those tales were too good to be lost, so in her sixties, she began to write down her memories. No one would publish her autobiography, called Pioneer Girl. But with her daughter’s help, she rewrote the book—for children—and it was published in 1932 as The Little House in the Big Woods. Between the ages of 65 and 76, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the classic nine-volume set of Little House books, which are known worldwide and printed in more than 40 languages. She wrote of blizzards and grasshopper plagues, of conflicts with Indians and conflicts with neighbors, of growing towns and advancing railroads, of washing dishes and braiding hair. She created a lasting portrait of her parents, her sisters, and herself.

Book awards, including five Newbery Award medals for juvenile fiction, and other tributes continued to honor Laura until her death at 90 on February 10, 1957. The daily life of a small family on the plains and prairies has become part of the national culture of America—the memories of one daughter, known as "Half Pint," have enchanted millions of readers.

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