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Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls WilderAuthor. Born: February 7, 1867, Pepin, Wisconsin. Married: Almanzo Wilder August 25, 1885, De Smet, Dakota Territory. Died: February 10, 1957, Mansfield, Missouri.

Born February 7, 1867, near Pepin, Wisconsin, Laura Ingalls Wilder was inspired to write stories about her family's life on the frontier, which included living in a cabin in southeast Kansas. These stories became the popular "Little House" series of children's books.

At first the Ingalls family lived in a log cabin in the "big woods" of Wisconsin. The family moved briefly in Chariton County, Missouri, in 1868.

The Homestead Act of 1862 had made available 160 acres to an eligible person in return for five years' residency and $18 dollars in filing fees. The opportunity lured the Ingalls family in fall 1869 to Montgomery County, Kansas. Laura would write about the cold weather the family experienced that winter. The Ingalls' cabin was on the 4.8 million acre-tract called Osage Diminished Reserve, which was not open to white settlement. Tensions between the Osages and settlers were strained at that time. In an effort to keep the peace, the government sent soldiers in February 1870, although settlers were not required to move. The Ingalls family decided to leave their cabin in spring 1871 and return to Wisconsin. Wilder would write about an Osage leader who eventually persuaded the Osages to agree to cede the lands. 

The Ingalls lived in Wisconsin until 1874, when Laura was seven, and they moved near Plum Creek in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. A couple of years later the family moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, and then in 1879 near De Smet in Dakota Territory.

Laura became a school teacher in De Smet just before her 16th birthday. She married Almanzo Wilder August 25, 1885, in De Smet. Their daughter, Rose, was born December 5, 1886, in De Smet.

Wilder shared with her daughter, Rose, her stories about growing up in different parts of the frontier. With Laura as author, the two women worked together to begin publishing the stories. Little House in the Big Woods was the first in the series, published in 1931. Farmer Boy, published in 1933, covered Almanzo's childhood in New York.

Little House on the Prairie, published in 1935, was about the family's experience in Kansas. Although Laura was too young to remember the details, she relied on the memories of her family. The setting for the book is about 15 miles southwest of Independence. Wilder's other books were On the Banks of Plum Creek, 1937, The Long Winter, 1940, Little Town on the Prairie, 1941, These Happy Golden Years, 1943. Several others were published posthumously by Rose.

A network television series, Little House on the Prairie, 1974 - 1984, brought more fans to the Little House books. Set in their Walnut Grove, Minnesota, home, the television series told the story of "Pa" and "Ma"—Charles and Caroline Ingalls—and Laura, Mary, and Carrie.

Almanzo died October 23, 1949, in Mansfield, Missouri. Laura died February 10, 1957, also in Missouri. Rose Wilder Lane died October 30, 1968, in Conneticut. The "Little House" series today is a multimillion dollar franchise with books, television series, and merchandising.

Entry: Wilder, Laura Ingalls

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2010

Date Modified: February 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.