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Juvenile Books Author of the Month
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder
7 February 1867 -- 10 February 1957

Biography
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin to Charles Philip and Caroline Lake (Quiner) Ingalls.

Charles Philip Ingalls was born in Cuba, New York on January 10, 1836 to Lansford and Laura Ingalls. Lansford and Laura are better known as "Grandpa" and "Grandma" in Little House in the Big Woods.

Thinking back on her father, Laura once said "Father's ancestors arrived in America on the Mayflower and he was born in New York state. But he was also raised on the frontier. He was always jolly, inclined to be reckless and loved his violin...." [2]

In Brookfield, Wisconsin, Caroline Lake Quiner was born to Henry and Charlotte Quiner on December 12, 1839. In 1946, Caroline's father died when she was just 7 years old. Her mother married Frederick Holbrook three years later.

When Caroline was only 16 years old, she taught two terms of school. She stopped teaching in 1860 when she married Charles Ingalls in Concord, Wisconsin, on February 1, 1860. Charles had always wanted to move west and was able to convince Caroline to do so.

Laura once described her mother saying "Mother was descended from an old Scotch family and inherited the Scotch thriftness which held with the livelihood. Although born and raised on the frontier, she was an educated and cultured woman. She was very quiet and gentle, but proud and particular in all matters of good breeding." [2]

Mary Amelia Ingalls was the first child born to Charles and Caroline. She was born on January 10, 1865 in Pepin, Wisconsin. Her sister Laura was the second child born to the Ingalls. When Laura was about one year old, her parents lost all their money. As a result, they decided to leave Wisconsin for the free land offered to homesteaders in the West.

Laura lived a rugged pioneer life with her family as they moved from place to place. Upon leaving Wisconsin, the family first settled in Independence, Kansas in 1969. The third addition to the family, Caroline Celestia (usually called Carrie), was born in Kansas on August 3, 1870. Shortly thereafter, the family returned to live in Pepin, Wisconsin.

It was not until 1874, when Laura was 9 years old, that the Ingalls family moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the setting of the popular Little House on the Prairie television series. Charles Frederick Ingalls, Jr., better known as Freddie, was born on November 1, 1875 in Walnut Grove.

Unlike the television series, the real-life Ingalls family did not stay in Walnut Grove. In 1876, they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa. It was here that little Freddie died at the age of nine months on August 27, 1876. The family had become concerned when he began losing weight for what seemed like little reason. Despite a doctor being called, he died. It was also here where Caroline gave birth to her fifth child, Grace Pearl on May 23, 1877.

The family returned to Walnut Grove for a year in 1878, but moved on to De Smet, South Dakota, where they finally settled in 1879. Charles made the trip by covered wagon, but Caroline and the girls made the trip by train. The family staked a claim.

It was in De Smet that another person entered Laura's life. Like the Ingalls family, Almanzo James Wilder, his brother Royal, and his sister Eliza Jane also moved to De Smet and staked a claim. Eliza Jane took a position as a teacher in the town. She had been a teacher in Spring Valley, Minnesota in 1877 and 1878 at the Spring Valley School. It was while teaching in De Smet, that Eliza Jane first met Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura was one of her students.

Eliza Jane's two brothers hauled hay for the residents of De Smet to burn when the trains could not make it through with fuel for the heat in the winter of 1879-1880. Later Royal opened a store in De Smet, where Almanzo would occasionally work as a clerk.

Almanzo was the fifth child born to James and Angeline Day Wilder. He was born on February 13, 1857 near Malone, New York. Before moving to De Smet, his family had also lived in Spring Valley, Minnesota from 1877 to 1879.

It was in 1879, that the Ingalls family once again faced trouble with one of their children. This time it was their eldest, Mary, who was fourteen at the time. She became very ill that year with what appears to be a combination of scarlet fever and meningities, which resulted in a stroke. Mary became blind because of the stroke. Laura, who loved her sister dearly, became Mary's "eyes", describing everything around them to her sister. In 1881, the Dakota Territory paid for Mary to attend the Iowa School for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa. The school exists to this day, though it is now known as the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. She graduated from the school in 1889 and returned to live with her parents. Like most blind women of the time, she never married and lived with her parents until their deaths. Mary then lived with Grace and her husband. She died in Keystone, South Dakota at the home of her sister Carrie on October 17, 1928. Some of Mary's beadwork, as well as her special Braille slate and Bible are housed at the Mansfield Museum while many of her other possessions are housed at De Smet.

In 1882, Laura, who was only 15 years old, became a teacher at a school of five students, some of whom were older and taller than she. The school, the Bouchie School, was 12 miles away from her family. It was during the two months she was teaching at the school that Laura had gotten to know Almanzo. By this time Almanzo had become a farmer. He would brace the winter storms to drive her home from school each weekend. During those long rides behind Prince and Lady, the Morgan horses she loved so much, the two fell in love. After courting for two and a half years, they were married on August 25, 1885. Laura wore a black dress.

Laura and Almanzo, whom she called Manly, spent four years trying farming. The story was related by Wilder in The First Four Years, which ended with a fire that destroyed the home Manly had worked so hard to build. Laura gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Rose, on December 5, 1886 in De Smet. In August 1889, Laura also gave birth to a baby boy who died shortly thereafter.

Laura and Almanzo also became ill that year with diptheria. It was Almanzo's brother Royal who nursed them back to health while the Ingalls cared for Rose. Both recovered, but Almanzo's experience resulted in his partial paralysis.

In 1890, Laura, Almanzo, Rose and Royal moved to live with Almanzo's parents in Spring Valley, Minnesota. Shortly after, Royal opened a variety store on Broadway, where he met his future wife Electra Hutchinson, a mother of four children.

Laura and her family moved to Westville, Florida in 1891 in the hope that the warmer climate would help Almanzo's legs. She hated living there so much, they returned to De Smet.

The Wilder family left in July 1894 for their final home in Mansfield, Missouri, where they bought the Rocky Ridge Farm. Laura wrote a piece describing the journey in an article that was printed in the De Smeet News on August 23. It was her first published writing. Laura and Almanzo built their first home on the farm, a two-bedroom house, in 1895 using local lumber and fieldstone from the farm.

In 1899, Rose, who was now 13 years old, moved to Crowly, Louisiana, to live with her recently widowed aunt Eliza Jane, while she finished her school.

Family life settled in over the next few years. Grace, Laura's youngest sister, married Nathan William Dow in the Ingalls family home on October 16, 1901. The following year, the Ingalls-Wilder family faced the death of Charles on June 8, 1902. His wife Caroline continued to live in De Smet with her eldest daughter Mary until her death on April 19, 1924. Charles had had many jobs in his lifetime, including Justice of the Peace, a construction worker, and an employee of the railroad. His fiddle music often had filled the hearts of his family on hot summer evenings and cold winter nights. His fiddle is currently on display at the Mansfield Museum.

Laura's life spanned America's Industrial Age. She saw a number of new inventions fill the homes and streets of the nation including the telephone, electric power, and the automobile. In 1900, she purchased her first cookstove from Montgomery Ward completing a modern kitchen that included the stove, hot and cold running water, and low wooden cabinets Almanzo had designed for her height. Her kitchen was named "the most modern Ozark country kitchen."

Laura had another addition made to her family in 1909, when her daughter Rose married Claire Gillette Lane in San Francisco on March 24. In 1915, Laura traveled to San Francisco to visit her daughter and see the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The diary of the trip to San Francisco was published under the title On the Way Home. West From Home is a collection of letters she wrote to Almanzo while she was in San Francisco.

Three years later, Rose and Claire Lane were divorced. It was also at about this time that Laura started working as an editor for the Missouri Ruralist. She also wrote numerous articles that were published locally.

Laura's mother Caroline died on April 20, 1924. Mary then moved in with her sister Grace and her husband.

In the 1930's, after twelve years of editing for the Missouri Ruralist, Laura began working on her memoirs in 1924 at the urging of her daughter Rose, who had grown up listening to her mother's stories of pioneer days. Originally, it took the form of a manuscript entitled Pioneer Girl, which was essentially the whole Little House series in one book.

The concept was later adjusted and broken down into the popular children's books, which were originally published by Harper and Brothers (now known as HarperCollins). Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the series, was published in 1932 when Laura was 65 years old. The book was so well received that she expanded it into a series, which she completed in 1943.

The books have become well-known both in America and in a number of other countries where they have been translated into more than 40 languages. As a re-education process, the U.S. State Department ordered the "Little House" books translated and published for readers in Japan and Germany after World War II. Since then, they have been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, and many others. Readers of all ages have accepted the Ingalls and Wilder families as chosen friends. Thousands wrote to her at her home on the Rocky Ridge Farm.

In puzzling over her sudden fame, Laura told a reporter for Deadwood Magazine "I was amazed because I didn't know how to write. I went to 'little red schoolhouses' all over the West, and I was never graduated from anything." [4]

In 1974 seventeen years after Laura's death, television presented the story of Laura and the Ingalls family to the American public with the popular series Little House on the Prairie. Her story was also made into a Broadway musical entitled Prairie in 1982.

Almanzo lived out the rest of his life working his beloved farm until his death on October 23, 1949, from two heart attacks.

Laura died in her sleep on February 10, 1957, at her Rocky Ridge Home in Mansfield, Missouri. It was three days after her 90th birthday. She was the last surviving member of the pioneering Ingalls family. Grace had died in Manchester, South Dakota on November 10, 1941. Carrie had died on June 2, 1946 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Laura's daughter Rose died in Danbury, Connecticut on October 30, 1968.

Information for this biography was taken from:
    1) Gwenda Blair. Laura Ingalls Wilder; G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York, 1981.
    2) Anne Commire (ed.). Something About the Authors, #29; Gale Research Company: Detroit, Mich., 1982.
    3) Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder; (http://www.vvv.com/~jenslegg/laura.htm).
    4) "Laura Ingalls Wilder", Deadwood Magazine; (http://rapidweb.com/deadwoodmag/Laura.htm).
    5) Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957; (http://www.emkc.edu/imc/wilder.htm).
    6) Laura Ingalls Wilder: Author of the "Little House" Books; (http://www.lauraingallswilder.com).
    7) Laura Ingalls Wilder: Frontier Girl; (http://webpages.marshall.edu/~irby1/laura/index.html).
    8) Patricia Reill Giff. Laura Ingalls Wilder: Growing Up in the Little House; Viking Kestrel: New York, 1987
    9) Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (ed.). St. James Guide to Children's Writers; St. James Press: Detroit, 2000.
    10) Ginger Wadsworth. Laura Ingalls Wilder: Storyteller of the Prairie; Lerner Publications Company: Minneapolis, Minn., 1997.

Titles
E-Wilder Going to Town (1994) -- A little pioneer girl and her family, living in the big woods of Wisconsin, make their first trip into town to visit the general store.

J-P-WIL Farmer Boy (1953) -- Nine-year-old Almanzo lives with his family on a big farm in New York state at the end of the Nineteenth Century.

J-WIL The First Four Years (1971) -- During their first four years of marriage, Laura and Almanzo Wilder have a child and fight a losing battle in their attempts to succeed at farming on the South Dakota prairie.

J-WIL Little House in the Big Woods (1953) -- A year in the life of two young girls growing up on the Wisconsin frontier as they help their mother with the daily chores, enjoy their father's stories and singing, and share special occasions when they get together with relatives or neighbors.

J-Wilder Little House on the Prairie (1953) -- A family travels from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to a new home on the prairie, where they build a house, meet neighboring Indians, build a well, and fight a prairie fire.

J-Wilder Little Town on the Prairie (1953) -- Pa's homestead thrives, Laura gets her first job in town, Mary goes to college, and Laura becomes a certified teacher.

J-P-WIL The Long Winter (1953) -- After an October blizzard, Laura's family moves from the claim shanty into a town for the winter, one that an Indian predicts will mean seven months of bad weather.

J-Wilder/J-P-WIL On the Banks of Plum Creek (1953) -- Laura and her family move to Minnesota, where they live in a dugout until a new house is built and face misfortunes caused by flood, blizzard, and grasshoppers.

J-917.8-WIL On the Way Home (1962) -- Selections from Laura Ingalls Wilder's diary describe the sights and events her family encountered traveling from South Dakota to the Ozarks.

J-WIlder These Happy Golden Years (1953) -- Laura has her first experiences as a teacher and is courted by Almanzo Wilder.

Little House Chapter Books for Beginner Readers
J-Wilder The Adventures of Laura and Jack (1997) -- Laura and her bulldog Jack share some wild adventures as the Ingalls family moves from Wisconsin to Kansas and later to Minnesota.

J-Wilder Animal Adventures (1997) -- Laura Ingalls and her pioneer family encounter a variety of animals traveling through and living in the American frontier at the turn of the century.

J-Wilder Farmer Boy Days (1998) -- As he grows up on his family's farm in New York, Almanzo Wilder dreams of having a colt of his own.

J-Wilder Hard Times on the Prairie (1998) -- Laura and her pioneer family struggle against hardships on the Kansas frontier including a prairie fire, a grasshopper invasion, and a blizzard.

J-Wilder Laura and Nellie (1998) -- Laura tries to get even with Nellie, the meanest girl in school.

J-Wilder Little House Farm Days (1998) - Laura helps out on the family farms in the Big Woods and on the prairie.

J-Wilder Little House Sisters (1997) -- A collection of stories describing the adventures of Laura Ingalls and her sisters while growing up in frontier communities in the MidWest.

J-Wilder Pioneer Sisters (1997) -- Laura Ingalls and her sisters share many adventures while growing up in the American frontier.

J-Wilder School Days (1997) -- Laura and her sisters share some good and bad times when they attend different schools near their various prairie homes.

Titles of Books About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Factual and Fictional
J-Macbride Little House on Rocky Ridge (1993) by Roger Lea Macbride -- In 1894, Laura Ingalls Wilder, her husband Almanzo, and her 7-year-old daughter Rose leave the Ingalls family in Dakota and make the long and difficult journey to Missouri to start a new life.

J-Macbride Little House in the Ozarks (1994) by Roger Lea Macbride -- Laura and Almanzo Wilder and their 8-year-old daughter Rose continue to work and make Rocky Ridge farm in Missouri their new home.

J-P-TED Missouri Homestead (1992) by T.L. Tedrow -- In 1884, when Laura, Manly, and their daughter Rose came from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, looking for a better life, Laura's outspoken articles against the local timberman cause some problems.

J-P-WIL Little Clearing in the Woods (1998) by Maria D. Wilkes -- Young Caroline Quiner, who would grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother, and her family move to a new farm in Concord, Wisconsin.

J-641.5-WAL The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods From Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories (1979) -- Recipes based on the pioneer food written about in the Little House series are collected in this volume along with quotes from the books and descriptions of the food and cooking of pioneer times.

J-92-WIL Laura Ingalls Wilder (1981) by Gwenda Blair - A brief biography of the author of the Little House books, which were based on her own family experiences with her family on the frontier in the late Nineteenth Century.

J-92-Wilder Laura Ingalls Wilder: Growing Up in the Little House (1987) by Patricia Reilly Giff -- A biography of the author of the Little House books, including her years of marriage to her husband Almanzo Wilder.

J-92-Wilder Laura Ingalls Wilder: Storyteller of the Prairie (1997) by Ginger Wadsworth -- Tells the life story of the author of the Little House books from her childhood in Wisconsin to her death at Rocky Ridge Farm at the age of ninety.

Y-P-WIL On the Way Home (1962) -- Selections from Laura Ingalls Wilder's diary describe the sights and events her family encountered travelling from South Dakota to the Ozarks.

92-WIL West From Home (1974) -- A selection of letters from Laura Ingalls Wilder to her husband Almanzo in which she describes the highlights her visit to the West Coast in 1915.

Websites
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder; (http://www.vvv.com/~jenslegg/laura.htm) - This is part of a site that is meant more for genealogical purposes, but it concentrates on the family and descendents of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

"Laura Ingalls Wilder", Deadwood Magazine; (http://rapidweb.com/deadwoodmag/Laura.htm) - An electronic version of a biographical article that appeared in Deadwood Magazine is presented here.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957; (http://www.emkc.edu/imc/wilder.htm) - Visitors to this site will find a pretty extensive biography of the author of the popular Little House books, but it also has some information about the real life characters that filled the pages of Wilder's life.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Author of the "Little House" Books; (http://www.lauraingallswilder.com) - This site concentrates on the series and its popularity, but it has some really interesting biographical facts.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Frontier Girl; (http://webpages.marshall.edu/~irby1/laura/index.html) - Dedicated to enthusiasts of the Little House series, this site is filled with information about Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author and main character, and the books themselves.

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