Laura Elizabeth Wilder

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Laura Elizabeth Wilder (Ingalls)

Also Known As: "Laura Ingalls"
Birthplace: Big Woods, Wisconsin, United States
Death: February 10, 1957 (90)
Mansfield, Wright, Missouri, United States (diabetes)
Place of Burial: Mansfield, Wright County, Missouri, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Charles Phillip Ingalls and Caroline Lake Ingalls
Wife of Almanzo James Wilder
Mother of Rose Wilder Lane and NN Wilder
Sister of Mary Amelia Ingalls; Caroline Celestia Swanzey; Charles Frederick Ingalls and Grace Pearl Dow

Occupation: Teacher, author, Book Author of Little House on the Paire
Managed by: Gene Daniell
Last Updated:

About Laura Elizabeth Wilder

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls, second daughter of Charles Phillip Ingalls (1836 - 1902) and Caroline Lake (Quiner) Ingalls (1839 - 1924), was born 7 February 1867, in a little log house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, seven miles north of Pepin; and died on 10 February 1957 at her home Rocky Ridge Farm, Mansfield, in the Ozarks of Missouri. She was 90 years old.

Laura Ingalls' childhood was spent traveling west by covered wagon from Wisconsin to Indian Territory in Kansas, then to grasshopper country in Minnesota, and finally to Dakota Territory, where she met and married Almanzo James Wilder. Her experiences growing up in the unsettled West inspired her famous children's "Little House" series. The television series "Little House on the Prairie," starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, ran from 1974 to 1982.

On 10 December 1882, two months before her sixteenth birthday, Laura accepted her first teaching position. She taught three terms in one-room schools when not attending school herself in De Smet. (In Little Town on the Prairie Laura receives her first teaching certificate on 24 December 1882, but that was an enhancement for dramatic effect.) Laura's original third-grade teaching certificate can be seen on page 25 of William Anderson's book "Laura's Album" (Harper Collins, 1998). Laura later admitted she did not particularly enjoy teaching, but felt the responsibility from a young age to help her family financially; and wage-earning opportunities for women were limited. Between 1883 and 1885, she taught three terms of school, worked for the local dressmaker, and attended high school, although she did not graduate.

Marriage and Children

On 25 August 1885, Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder. He was born 13 February 1857 and died 23 October 1949, at the age of 92. His parents were James Wilder (1813-1899) and Angeline Day (1821-1905). Their children were:

  1. Rose Wilder (1886–1968) novelist, journalist, and political theorist
  2. an unnamed son, who died soon after birth in 1889

Note: Claire Gillette Lane was not a daughter of Almanzo and Laura; this is a widely-propagated error. Although modern Americans are used to Claire being a name for girls, in other places and times it has been used for boys as well. Claire Gillette Lane was the man who married Laura's daughter, Rose Wilder.

Rocky Ridge Day

After Laura's death, Mansfield residents L.D. and Irene Lichty began a non-profit organization in commemoration of Laura and her books. They later persuaded Laura's daughter Rose Wilder Lane to repurchase Laura's Rocky Ridge home and grounds, and were active in its preservation. Today, the house stands just as Laura left it. A museum next to the home contains many of Laura's personal belongings and a number of items mentioned in her books, such as Pa's fiddle, Ma's sewing machine, Mary's nine-patch quilt, autograph albums, name cards, and much more. One section of the museum is devoted to Rose Wilder Lane and her literary career.

The modern rock house that Rose had built for her parents was restored in the 1990s, and was officially opened at Rocky Ridge Day 1997. The rock house is now available for tours.

Family Research Notes

There were three marriages between the Ingalls and Quiners, making Laura's family quite complicated:

  • Laura's father, Charles Ingalls (Pa) married Caroline Quiner (Ma)
  • Pa's brother, Peter Riley Ingalls (1833 - 1900) married Ma's sister, Eliza Ann Quiner (1842 - 1931), in 1861
  • Pa's sister, Polly Melona Ingalls (1840 - 1886) married Ma's brother, Henry Odin Quiner (1859 - 1880), in 1859. Other family members were:
  • Mary Ingalls (Laura's oldest sister)
  • Carrie Ingalls (Laura's younger sister)
  • Freddy Ingalls (Laura's younger brother)
  • Grace Ingalls (Laura's youngest sister)
  • Almanzo Wilder (Laura's husband)
  • Rose Wilder Lane (Laura's daughter)
  • Landsford and Laura Ingalls (Laura's paternal grandparents)
  • Henry and Charlotte Quiner (Laura's maternal grandparents)
  • Thomas Lewis Quiner (Laura's uncle)
  • Docia Waldvogel Forbes and children (Laura's aunt)
  • James and Angeline Wilder (Almanzo's parents)
  • Royal Wilder (Almanzo's brother)
  • Eliza Jane Wilder (Almanzo's sister)

Published Works

Five times from 1938 to 1944 Wilder was one of the runners-up for the American Library Association Newbery Medal, recognizing the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children". The honored works were the last five of eight books in the Little House series that were published in her lifetime.

  • Little House in the Big Woods (1932) – named to the inaugural Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1958
  • Farmer Boy (1933) – about Almanzo Wilder growing up in New York
  • 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)
  • These Happy Golden Years (1943)
  • On the Way Home (1962, published posthumously) – diary of the Wilders' move from De Smet, South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri, edited and supplemented by Rose Wilder Lane
  • The First Four Years (Harper & Row, 1971, posthumously), illustrated by Garth Williams
  • West from Home (1974, posthumously) – Wilder's letters to Almanzo while visiting Lane in San Francisco
  • The Road Back (Part of A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America) – highlighting Laura's previously unpublished record of a 1931 trip with Almanzo to De Smet, South Dakota, and the Black Hills
  • A Little House Sampler, with Rose Wilder Lane, edited by William Anderson
  • Writings to Young Women – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues, Volume Two: On Life As a Pioneer Woman, Volume Three: As Told By Her Family, Friends, and Neighbors
  • A Little House Reader: A Collection of Writings
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder & Rose Wilder Lane – letters exchanged by Laura and Rose
  • Little House in the Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings

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Laura Elizabeth Wilder's Timeline

February 7, 1867
Big Woods, Wisconsin, United States
September 1882
- 1885
Age 15
Dakota Territory School Boards, De Smet, South Dakota, United States
December 5, 1886
De Smet, Kingsbury County, South Dakota, United States
August 1889
De Smet, Kingsbury County, South Dakota, United States
February 10, 1957
Age 90
Mansfield, Wright, Missouri, United States
February 10, 1957
Age 90
Mansfield Cemetery, Mansfield, Wright County, Missouri, United States