Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura ingalls wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) gained renown for her autobiographical writings about growing up as an American pioneer. Particularly beloved are her Little House series of books for young readers. Born in a log cabin on the edge of an area called “Big Woods” in Pepin, Wisconsin, her life was the inspiration for her novels and richly informed her memoirs.

The Ingalls family traveled by covered wagon through Kansas and Minnesota with all that they owned, until finally settling in De Smet, Dakota Territory. The family loved the the open spaces of the prairie, where they farmed and raised animals.

The Ingalls moved around quite a bit, and though it wasn’t an easy life, it gave Laura a rich trove of memories and experiences to draw upon when she began writing. It may be comforting to aspiring writers of all ages that her first book wasn’t published until she was sixty-five! 

Another long journey

Though Laura wasn’t conventionally educated, she managed to get her teaching certificate at the age of fifteen. Three years later, she married Almonzo Wilder, and helped her husband work the farm that they lived on. In 1894, The couple and their seven-year-old daughter, Rose, made the journey from their drought-stricken farm in De Smet to a new farm in Mansfield, Missouri, where they settled permanently. She told of this journey in diary entries that were later published in On the Way Home.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Little House books

Drought, crop failure, and Almonzo’s illness put the Wilders in a precarious position. Finally, in the 1920s, Wilder got encouragement from her daughter Rose as well as the time that she needed to start writing. The first of the autobiographical  Little House books, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1931; Laura  was well into her sixties at the time. The best known of the series, Little House on the Prairie, was published soon after.

The family depicted in the stories was an idealized version of the one she grew up in.The Little House books tell of a family, not unlike her own, pioneering the Great Plains in the mid-1800s. Life was simple, but good. Little House in the Big Woods begins when the eponymous Laura is five years old; the family is headed by Ma and Pa, and rounded out by two sisters, Mary and Carrie. The family lives on a small farm where life is simple, but good.

Laura and Almanzo Wilder

Laura and Almonzo at about the time they married

The series continues with By the Shores of Silver Lake and The Long Winter. In Little House on the Prairie, perhaps the best known in the series, Laura comes of age and becomes a teacher. Next comes These Happy Golden Years, in which Laura marries Almonzo and they move to their own home.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tales immediately appealed to readers of all ages — nine in the Little House series in all. The books were an immediate critical and popular success, winning numerous awards and making their way into the hearts of generations of readers with their message of endurance, simple living, and love of family. Though presented as fiction, the author insisted, “I lived everything I wrote.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder

You might also like: Comforting Quotes by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Husband Almonzo and daughter Rose

She enjoyed a 64-year marriage with her husband Almonzo. Rose, their only daughter, was said to have played a fairly sizable role in making Laura’s books the eminently readable works of children’s literature that they became. Some have been less kind about Rose’s role in her mother’s writing career.

The Wilder family, who had lost nearly everything in the early years of the Depression, became very wealthy indeed upon the publication of the Little House books. How much Rose contributed to them has always been a matter of controversy. But in the end what matters is that they’ve been beloved by children for many generations.

Laura’s beloved husband Almonzo died in 1949 at the age of 92.  She lived for several more years, and died in 1957 on her farm in Mansfield, Missouri at the age of 90.

Little house in the big woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder page on Amazon

More about Laura Ingalls Wilder on this site

Major Works

Autobiographies and Biographies about Laura Ingalls Wilder

More Information

Selected film adaptations of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books

Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homes and museums

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