Laura Ingalls Wilder Biography & Facts
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) was an American writer, mostly 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.The television series Little House on the Prairie (1974–1983) was loosely based on the books, and starred Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as her father, Charles Ingalls.
Birth and ancestry
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 (1932). She was the second of five children, following older sister, Mary Amelia. 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.Ingalls was a descendant of the Delano family, the ancestral family of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One paternal ancestor, Edmund Ingalls, from Skirbeck, Lincolnshire, England, emigrated to America, settling in Lynn, Massachusetts.Laura was the 7th great granddaughter of the Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. She was a third cousin, once removed, of U.S. President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.
When she was two years old, Ingalls Wilder moved with her family from Wisconsin in 1869. After stopping in Rothville, Missouri, they settled in the Indian country of Kansas, near modern-day Independence, Kansas. Her younger sister, Carrie, was born in Independence in August 1870, not long before they moved again. According to Ingalls Wilder, her father Charles Ingalls had been told that the location would be open to white settlers, but when they arrived this was not the case. The Ingalls family had no legal right to occupy their homestead because it was on the Osage Indian reservation. They had just begun to farm when they heard rumors that settlers would be evicted, so they left in the spring of 1871. Although in her novel, Little House on the Prairie, and Pioneer Girl memoir, Ingalls Wilder portrayed their departure as being prompted by rumors of eviction, she also noted that her parents needed to recover their Wisconsin land because the buyer had not paid the mortgage.The Ingalls family went back to Wisconsin where they lived for the next three years. Those experiences formed the basis for Wilder's novels Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and the beginning of Little House on the Prairie (1935).
On the Banks of Plum Creek (1939), the third volume of her fictionalized history which takes place around 1874, the Ingalls family moves from Kansas to an area near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, settling in a dugout on the banks of Plum Creek. 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 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).
Wilder's father filed for a formal homestead over the winter of 1879–1880. De Smet, South Dakota became home for her parents and her blind sister Mary 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).
On December 10, 1882, two months before her 16th birthday, Ingalls accepted her first teaching position. 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.) Her original "Third Grade" teaching certificate can be seen on page 25 of William Anderson's book Laura's Album (1998). 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. (According to the books, this was due to her first teaching job starting before her schooling finished.)
Early marriage years
Ingalls' teaching career and studies ended when the 18-year-old Laura married 28-year-old Almanzo Wilder on August 25, 1885, in De Smet, South Dakota. From the beginning of their relationship, the pair had nicknames for each other: she called him "Manly" and he called her "Bess," from her middle name Elizabeth, to avoid confusion with his sister, who was also named Laura. Almanzo had achieved a degree of prosperity on his homestead claim; the newly married couple started their life together in a new home, north of De Smet.On December 5, 1886, Wilder gave birth to her daughter, Rose. 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. On the grave marker, he is remembered as "Baby Son of A. J. Wilder."Their first few years of marriage were difficult. Complications from a life-threatening bout of diphtheria in 1888 left Almanzo partially paralyzed. Although he eventually regained nearly full use of his legs, he needed a cane to walk for the re.... Discover the Laura Ingalls Wilder popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Laura Ingalls Wilder books.