Laura Ingalls Wilder is the name behind the much loved Little House series of books for children. She was an American author who wrote the novels inspired by her childhood experiences during the 1800s on the Western frontier. Laura’s daughter, Rose encouraged her to write her stories. The books gained more popularity after a TV series (1974-1983) based on Laura’s stories.
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder was born in the village of Pepin in Wisconsin on February 7, 1867.She was the second of four surviving children of Charles Philip Ingalls and Caroline Lake Quiner. Her sisters, Mary, Carrie, and Grace all appeared in her stories. As a young girl, Laura moved from place to place with her family building a wealth of experiences and stories in her memory. Places the family travelled to and from included Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory, and Dakota Territory. Finally settling in De Smet, South Dakota, the Wilder’s experienced a harsh second winter in their new home. The winter, which was stated to be one of the most severe on the records of the region, was later described in Wilder’s book, The Long Winter where she recalled her teenage experience of trying to survive the cold temperatures and lack of basic necessities.
Because of the family’s frequent moves, Wilder was unable to attend school regularly initially but did so later after settling down in De Smet. She also worked at several jobs before obtaining a teaching certification in 1882 at the age of 15. For three years, Wilder taught at a small country school while getting an education herself. Although Wilder did not particularly enjoy teaching, she felt it her responsibility to support her family financially. Her studies and teaching career ended when she married Almanzo Wilder who was ten years her senior on August 25, 1885. Laura was eighteen years old at the time of her wedding. Wilder dedicated her time to helping her husband on his farm, accounts of which she wrote in her book, The First Four Years. In December 1886, Laura gave birth to a daughter they named, Rose. The couple encountered many hardships in their initial years. Wilder had to act extra strong when her husband got sick with diphtheria becoming half paralyzed. Another major hardship was the burning down of their house which Almanzo had built himself.
In 1894, the Wilders began a journey to Mansfield, Missouri, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Wilder created a memoir of the experiences during this journey and sent it for publication in the De Smet News upon reaching Mansfield. This became Wilder’s first published work and the beginning of her literary career after which she contributed to more publications including McCall’s Magazine, Country Gentleman, St. Louis Star where she was a poultry editor and Missouri Ruralist where she remained for twelve years as their home editor.
Wilder began composing her childhood experiences in stories after encouragement from her daughter. Set in Wisconsin, Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932 followed by Farmer Boy (1933) and Little House on the Prairie (1935). Her simple stories portraying the true warm side of life engrossed her readers, still continuing to charm them. Three days after her 90th birthday, Wilder died on February 10, 1957.She is buried beside her daughter and husband at the town cemetery in Mansfield, Missouri.