This famous American author has a February birthday. Do you recognize her?
She is Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House fame. I read all her books as a kid, but had no idea what she looked like. Thanks to google, now I do! I also thought I knew all about her. I didn’t! Did you know she never wanted to be a writer?
Laura was born in1867, but didn’t start writing until 1911, at age 44. She was invited to submit an article for a magazine, The Missouri Ruralist. She did. Laura went onto to write about her home and family for them. She also did some editing too.
By the 1920’s her only child, Rose, was one of the highest paid writers in the country. In 1924 Rose helped her mother get two articles published in another magazine. Rose saw potential and started encouraging her mom to really work on her writing. Can you imagine teaching your mother?
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 changed everything for most people. Rose and her parents lost almost everything, except their Missouri farm, but Laura didn’t give up. She kept writing, and a year later she had a manuscript for Pioneer Girl. She wanted to hang onto old memories, and make a little money. Rose’s publisher liked it, but wanted a bigger story. Laura wrote more, with a little help from her daughter, and in 1932 her first book Little House in the Big Woods was published. Laura was 65 years old.
The first is the original book, and the second is the 1953 edition. That’s when the publisher brought in a new illustrator. I love it! That’s because it’s the one I grew up with, and it’s still for sale. The last picture is a replica of Laura’s real house from the big woods. It looks pretty small for a family of 5. Can you imagine living there?
Laura’s books help you imagine growing up on the frontier. They’re mostly true, but somethings are fictionalized to make the story better. For example her publisher wanted an older Laura. They thought 5 year olds remembered things better than 3 year’s. That’s usually true, but not for Laura!
Let me introduce you to Laura’s family. First are her parents, Charles and Carolyn Ingalls. Funny, I never pictured Pa with a beard. Next is Laura herself, age 10. Back then she was living in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the home of her 4th book, On the Banks of Plum Creek. Last is a picture of the 3 sisters, Carrie, Mary, and Laura. Did you notice Laura’s dress is the same in both pictures? I’m guessing she’s still 10!
Now look at Laura, all grown up! It’s 1885. Laura is 18, and she’ll soon marry Almanzo Wilder. Laura’s 2nd book, Farmer Boy, was published the next year in 1933. It’s all about Almanzo growing up. Two books in two years…I bet Laura, Almanzo, and Rose were feeling better about their finances!
This is a map of Laura’s travels. If you’re ready for a road trip, check out the addresses and phone numbers.
For me, the best part researching Laura was getting to know her as a writer. Like Laura, I never wanted to be a writer, but, I got a later start. I was 49, but I still have time…Laura didn’t get published till she was 65. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!