Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on this date in 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin. I have to admit I’ve never read any of her books, though I used to immensely enjoy the TV series “Little House on the Prairie” starring Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder during the part of her life spent in Minnesota.
And I drove by one of her residences when I was working in Iowa in 2008.
Here’s a short biography of her life, courtesy of The Writer’s Almanac:
She grew up with three sisters in a pioneer family. Her father was a restless man, and every couple of years he packed the family into their covered wagon and moved on in search of a better place. During her childhood, she lived in a series of shacks, cabins, and sod houses in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, and South Dakota. She began teaching when she was 15 years old; she didn’t like being a teacher but she needed to help support her family. Three years later, she married the most eligible bachelor farmer in town, and they had a daughter, named Rose. They eventually settled in the Ozarks in Missouri, where Wilder lived for the remainder of her life.
They lived a hard life of manual labor on their Missouri farm, which included chickens, a dairy, and an apple orchard. Their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, left as soon as she could and became a journalist in San Francisco. When she built them a beautiful new stone cottage on their farm, they were skeptical, and when she bought them a car, her father ran it into a tree.
Laura Ingalls Wilder had begun writing under the name Mrs. A.J. Wilder for the Missouri Ruralist and the St. Louis Star Farmer, articles like “Economy in Egg Production,” “Spic, Span and Beauty,” “Just a Question of Tact,” and “Making the Best of Things.” At the age of 63, she decided to try writing an autobiography. She wrote by hand with a pencil. And by the time she was finished, she had filled six lined tablets with her story, which she called Pioneer Girl.
Wilder gave the rough draft of her manuscript to Lane, who used her contacts to get it into the hands of Virginia Kirkus, a children’s book editor at Harper & Brothers. Kirkus read the manuscript on the train ride home to Connecticut from New York, and she was so fascinated by the story that she missed her stop. She bought it and offered Wilder a three-book contract. Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and its sequel Farmer Boy (1933), about the boyhood of Wilder’s husband, Almanzo, were a big success even though bookselling was slow during the Depression. Wilder continued to write books about her childhood, drawing on her own memories and those of her relatives. She earned enough to be financially comfortable for the rest of her life.
Her books include Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), and These Happy Golden Years (1943).
Little House in the Big Woods ends: “She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”
And you may have noticed that today’s Google image is a scene from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie.