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Laura Ingalls Wilder ( 1867 - 1957 )  Category ( Authors ) [suggest a correction]
 

Laura Ingalls WilderLaura Ingalls Wilder was an American author, famous for writing a series of children's books based on her years growing up in a pioneer family moving ever westward. The series, known as the Little House books, chronicle Wilder's childhood and youth from age five to her late teens, when she married. Wilder wrote subsequent books dealing with her early married life and a conduct book for young girls and women.

Wilder was born in a log cabin near the village of Pepin, Wisconsin, the daughter of Charles and Carolina Ingalls. Charles' paternal grandmother was Margaret Delano, of the famous Delano family, and was a descendant of the Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. Wilder was born second of five children. Her father appeared to have had a strong case of wanderlust as he moved his family further and further west, from Wisconsin to Minnesota, and finally to the Dakota Territory in what is now DeSmet, South Dakota. The family seemed plagued with bad luck, including failed crops, the death of their only son at age nine months, and enduring extreme forms of weather, of which one incident Wilder made the focus of her book, The Long Winter.

In an effort to help support her family, Wilder pursued and received a teaching license and began teaching school at age fifteen. She gave up her teaching career when she married Almanzo Wilder in 1885. The couple had two children, one of whom – Rose - survived to adulthood. Rose Wilder later became a renowned journalist, author, and Libertarian. The Wilder family's experiences with farming were reminiscent of those Laura endured with her parents. A series of disastrous events including a fire that burned their home to the ground, a bout of diphtheria that left Almanzo partially paralyzed, severe drought, and the death of their infant son, drove the couple to search further afield for a better life, just as Charles Ingall had done. After time spent in Minnesota and Florida, the couple returned to their Dakota roots, settling once again in the De Smet area. By 1894 they had saved enough to journey eastward to Missouri, where they bought a farm that they named Rocky Ridge. The forty-acre farm eventually expanded to 200 acres where the Wilders produced poultry, dairy, and fruit. Though they eventually achieved a measure of financial success, it was a long, hard climb and only when daughter Rose encouraged her mother to write about her pioneer childhood experiences did the Wilders earn a substantial income. Due to Rose Wilder's writing career, controversy surrounds her role in the Little House series. The truth probably lies somewhere between those who believe Laura was an “untutored genius” and those who contend that Rose was largely responsible for the writing of the books. What is known for certain is that Rose was a gifted editor and ghostwriter.

The first title in the Little House series, Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1931. Wilder received her first (and smallest) royalty check in the amount of $500 ($7,300 in 2007 dollars). The entire series of eight books have been in continuous publication ever since. Most of the sites where the books were set are now museums, receiving thousands of visitors each year. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived to age 90, having outlived her husband (who also lived until age 90) by ten years.


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