Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder was an American author most well known for her work on the Little House on the Prairie series. Published between 1932 and 1943, Little House on the Prairie was based loosely on the life and times of Laura’s childhood. In the years since the height of her fame, the world has gotten to know bit by bit regarding Laura’s fascinating childhood. Today, we are going to take you through a comprehensive journey of Laura’s entire life.
Keep on reading to learn about the stunning life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder!
Born and Raised in Wisconsin
Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, in Wisconsin. Wilder was born to Caroline and Charles Ingalls in the small village of Pepin, located near the Big Woods region in the area. This location would be where Ingalls set her first major publication, Little House in the Big Woods in 1932.
Meet the Parents of Laura Ingalls Wilder
While Laura Ingalls wasn’t born into a wealthy family, her parents did what they could to take care of her. Meet Charles and Caroline Ingalls, the O.G. Ma and Pa from the Little House series. Charles was born in New York but raised in Illinois. Caroline had worked as a schoolteacher before marrying Charles. The two would have two daughters together, Mary and Laura.
A Life Lived on the Road
Laura didn’t get to enjoy a conventional childhood as her parents were beholden to wanderlust. Laura and her family would move across the country in her youth, living in places like South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota during her youth. Eventually, the family would settle down in De Smet, SD, where Charles worked as a bookkeeper for the railroad.
Falling In Love With Almanzo Wilder
While Laura had a busy childhood, she still found time to yearn for love and affection. Laura would meet Almanzo Wilder during her time as a teacher. Almanzo was a homesteader and the two would quickly fall in love despite their decade-long age gap. The couple would officially wed in 1885 before settling on land that Laura’s family had claimed.
Family Devastated By Disease
Despite the excitement of young love, the Wilder family struggled with heartache and loss. Almanzo suffered under a diphtheria diagnosis, a bacterial infection which would leave Almanzo partially paralyzed. Almanzo would struggle to maintain his farm as he was incapable of performing all of his necessary duties.
A Working Teacher By Age 15
Even though Laura was only a teenager when she met Almanzo, she still had found time to carve out a career. Laura had developed her education throughout her youth, eventually landing a job as a teacher in 1882 at the age of 15. Laura would continue to teach as she cultivated her relationship with Almanzo.
Embroiled In Constant Tragedy
Alongside Almanzo’s paralysis, the Wilder family would incur tragedy after tragedy. Almanzo and Laura would welcome and summarily lose the birth of their first child, a son who would pass at the age of just two weeks. Following the child’s passing, Laura’s farm would wither and her house would eventually burn down. The family was forced to leave home behind to move to Minnesota.
Life Continues to Improve
Despite their struggles and loss, the Wilder family refused to cave in to despair. The Wilders would flourish after moving to Minnesota as can be seen by the picture above. The Wilder family looks healthy and largely happy in this photograph. Pictured above you will find Caroline, Carrie, Charles, Laura, Grace, and Mary.
Moving For Almanzo
As Almanzo continued to struggle with his health, Laura knew that the family needed to relocate to survive. The Wilder family would move to Florida in an effort to improve her husband’s condition. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity would be too much for the Wilder family to bear so they would leave town behind once again.
Heading to Mansfield, Missouri
More than two decades after losing their son and dealing with a diphtheria diagnosis, the Wilders would move and summarily flourish in Mansfield, MO. In 1894, the Wilder family would purchase underdeveloped land on the outskirts of town. The Wilder family would rebuild their life by selling firewood for 50 cents a bundle.
Writing on the Farm
As the family farm continued to flourish, apple trees would become a mainstay on the land. While Laura and her family sold apples, dairy, and wood, Laura spent time developing her writing career. It was in the early 1900s that she would begin to use her expertise in farming in her written works, eventually leading to the breakthrough that we are about to introduce you to!
The Missouri Ruralist Columnist
Finally, in 1911, Laura would gain mainstream attention for her work as an author. Wilder would be hired as a columnist for the Missouri Ruralist by 1911 where she would eventually become editor of the publication. Wilder wrote for the Ruralist until the mid-’20s where she quickly became one of the strongest voices in the area.
Embroiled in Modern Controversy
Despite the strong nature of the Wilder family as well as their own willingness to push through any tragedy, modern critics have looked at her work in a different light. Laura Ingalls Wilder would go viral lin 2018 after her name was dropped from a literature award for children. The reasoning for dropping Wilder revolved around the racist content within her written works.
Life on the Indian Reserve
Before Laura and her family had settled down in Mansfield, they had spent a brief spell of time on the Osage Indian Reserve in Kansas during 1869. The family lived on the farm for a brief period of time before returning to the comfort of Wisconsin. You can see how the Osage Indian Reserve looked in the image above.
Surviving the Great Depression
The Wilders continued to flourish until the Great Depression hit in earnest following the stock market implosion of 1929. Fortunately, the Wilders were able to keep their farm but their entire fortune was wiped clean. Laura would begin penning more work during this time, eventually publishing When Grandma Was a Little Girl and Little House in the Big Woods in 1932.
Help From a Rose
If Laura Ingalls Wilder was influenced by her family, so was her own daughter, Rose. Rose was a steady influence on her mother’s work during the early days before she too followed her mother’s career path. It was rumored that Rose worked with Laura on a number of projects, though this is hard to prove without drifting into conjecture.
Mystery Between Mother and Daughter
Speaking of conjecture, it was commonly believed that Rose worked as a ghostwriter for her mother’s work. The two authors spent a significant amount of time together and frequently covered the same territory with their works. Other fans believe that Rose would transform her mother’s original drafts into the finely tuned products that readers would fall in love with.
The Passing of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura would live with Almanzo on the Rocky Ridge Farm until his passing in 1949 at the age of 92. After a long and adventurous life, Laura Ingalls Wilder would follow her husband after passing away in her sleep in 1957 at the age of 90. Laura would be buried next to her husband and daughter in the Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield, MO.