Becca Anderson, author of the upcoming The Book of Awesome Girls, has written a new blog post on the life and career of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
On February 7, 1867, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born near Pepin, Wisconsin, the site of Little House in the Big Woods, the first of her many beloved books. Laura’s pioneer family, her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls, and sisters Mary, Carrie, and Grace, would be immortalized in Laura’s memoirs of her family’s travels and adventures. Brother Charles Frederick was never a character in Laura’s books, although he was a figure in the television series Little House on the Prairie, which was based on the book series.
The family moved from Wisconsin to Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, finally settling in De Smet, South Dakota. Each move provided more insight into pioneer life in the growing United States. Seven books—Little House in
the Big Woods (1932), Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939), The Long Winter (1940), Little Town on the Prairie (1941), and These Happy Golden Years (1943)—chronicle Laura’s journey from a backwoods Wisconsin girl to a woman ready to create her own happiness in the harsh lands of South Dakota.
Wilder would use her life in all of her writing, covering her adulthood, including meeting and marrying Almonzo Wilder in The First Four Years (1971), On the Way Home (1962), and West from Home (1974). On the Way Home, edited by Laura’s only daughter Rose Wilder Lane, and West from Home, edited by Roger Lea McBride, were written after Laura and Almonzo left De Smet and began crisscrossing the United States, finally settling in Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894. Farmer Boy (1933) was written about Almonzo’s boyhood.
But it was young Laura’s recollections of her family’s adventures that would stand the test of time and attract a following of devoted young fans from
all over the world. Laura’s books have been translated into forty languages, including Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish.
One fan recounts this story: “My father was in the Army, and moving around was just something my family did. When I was eight, we received moving orders for Germany, and we were to leave halfway through my year in second grade. We had Christmas early so that the presents could be packed with the rest of the household goods and shipped off to our new home. My grandparents, God bless them, gave me the yellow-boxed set of the Little House on the Prairie books. I had never read them before, but I was hooked.
“The box held eight books, one for each of my birthdays, and it was heavy. But I would not let the movers take it; I had to read each one right away. I knew I could never wait for the books to arrive with our furniture. I pleaded, begged, and cajoled my parents—and walked onto the long flight to Germany the happiest little girl in the world, waddling onto the plane with the heaviest package I had ever carried. Those books helped me ‘pioneer’ my way through many moves. How could I complain? Laura never did about moving. She
saw the world as a place to grow and expand. She saw moving as an exciting adventure, an exploration into the unknown. I spent the rest of my time as a ‘career army brat’ looking forward to the next move, and whatever changes would come.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder died February 10, 1957, at age ninety, in Mansfield, Missouri, the last surviving member of her pioneering family.
Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong. Great improvements in living have been made because every American has always been free to pursue his happiness, and so long as Americans are free, they will continue to make our country even more wonderful.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Why the Future is Female
An uncensored history of girl power. Before they were seasoned women, little feminists were changing society and inspiring future generations. At seventeen, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Days after her thirteenth birthday, Anne Frank began writing one of the most poignant glimpses of Nazi occupation. Packed with mini biographies of big she-ros, The Book of Awesome Girls features famous girls alongside the equally awesome teens omitted from the history books. With a bonus chapter on girl empowerment today, readers are invited to learn about modern figures like Greta Thunberg and Mari Copeny.