Laura Ingalls Wilder - Life on the Prairie
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born on February 7, 1867 in Wisconsin to Charles Philip Ingalls and Caroline Lake Quiner Ingalls. The journals she kept of her life experiences became the basis for her wildly popular Little House series of books.
Laura was the second of the four Ingalls children. Her sisters were Mary, Carrie, and Grace. Her brother, Charles, died at nine months of age. The family moved from Wisconsin to Walnut Grove, Minnesota in 1874. Later, they moved to Iowa, back to Minnesota, and finally to South Dakota. The frequent moving made schooling difficult, so Laura was mostly self-taught. In 1882, when she was fifteen years old, she became a teacher.
On August 25, 1885, Laura married Almanzo Manly Wilder after a two year courtship. She quit teaching to help her husband take care of their farm. They had one daughter, Rose, in 1886. After that, they experienced several hardships. Their infant son, born in 1889, died shortly after his birth. Almanzo became infected with diphtheria and became partially paralyzed. Their run of bad luck continued when the house Almanzo had built for them burned down.
In 1894, the Wilders moved to Missouri where they built a farm called Rocky Ridge. They would live there together for the rest of their lives. Laura kept journals of her family's experiences as they traveled, and her account was published in the DeSmet News. This was the first time her writing was ever published.
"Pioneer Girl" was the title of Laura Ingalls Wilder's first autobiographical book. It was all about her life from the ages of three to eighteen. It was written in the first person, meaning she referred to herself as "I", was mainly historical in nature, and did not focus on the members of her family. No publishers were interested in printing it, but she did not become discouraged.
Wilder took her stories and changed the focus to the family rather than on just her. She changed the narrative style - she changed references to "Laura" instead of "I" - and targeted children as the readers of her books. For the most part, she wrote about real events and people, occasionally changing things to reflect happier endings. She did not include her infant son or his death in her books.
At age 65, Wilder's first "Little House" book was published. Over the next nine years, she would publish a total of eight books based on her life.
Almanzo died on their farm at age ninety-two and Laura died eight years later at age ninety. After she died, her daughter took the account that had been published in the DeSmet News and had it published in book form as "On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894". It was 1974 when Wilder's stories became a popular television series that ran nine seasons.
Rocky Ridge Farm is now The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic House and Museum. Visitors can see many artifacts from pioneer history as well as items from the Wilder homes over the years. Fans of Wilder's writing can visit and get a real picture of what life was like in the Little House books.