15 Facts You May Not Know about Laura Ingalls Wilder
“They not only tell us what life was like, but they also tell us what life could be like if we could only live up to our best ideals.” – John E. Miller on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Once told that writing for children was a waste of time, Laura Ingalls Wilder ignored that advice to become one of the most influential children’s authors of all time. Though her famous Little House book series is officially classified as fiction, they are autobiographical in nature, teaching about and reflecting on the harshness of life in the late 1800s in the context of a warm and loving family. To celebrate 150 years since her birth in a little house in the big woods, here are 15 facts you may not know about Laura Ingalls Wilder.
1. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t have her first book published until 1932, 65 years after she was born on February 7, 1867, in a little house in the big woods of Pepin County, Wisconsin.
2. Pa’s nickname for Laura was his “little half pint of cider half drank up.” Though she was only 4 feet 11 inches tall as an adult, she was not considered exceptionally short for women of that time.
3. Laura wrote her books in pencil, using both sides of her yellow tablet paper to save money.
4. Her first manuscript was an autobiography that was rejected by every publisher who read it. The annotated autobiography was eventually published as Pioneer Girl in 2014, 57 years after her death.
5. Laura was encouraged to write about her childhood by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who believed that the stories of the loving and determined Ingalls family were just what Americans wanted and perhaps needed to hear during the Great Depression.
6. After her first couple books were published, Laura received a lot of fan mail asking what happened next. Remembering how often she asked Pa for “just one more story,” she kept writing.
7. The Little House books have remained continuously in print since their publication in the 1930s and early 1940s.
8. The original illustrator for the Little House books was Helen Sewell, but her work was replaced by illustrations of Garth Williams, whose work also includes the children’s classics of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web.
9. In 2012, School Library Journal ranked Little House in the Big Woods #19 in a list of the top children’s novels of all time. Little House on the Prairie was #27, and The Long Winter was #84.
10. The Little House series has sold over 60 million copies.
11. Children have read Laura’s novels in 26 languages.
12. The popularity of the books increased from The Little House on the Prairie television series, which ran for 204 episodes from 1974-1983. The show starred Michael Landon as Pa and Melissa Gilbert as Laura. Although based in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the show was filmed at Big Sky Ranch just north of Simi Valley, California, at the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains.
13. Laura is buried in Mansfield, Missouri, next to her husband Almanzo “Manly” Wilder and their daughter Rose. Laura and Manly moved to Rocky Ridge Farm in 1894 and lived a comfortable life running a successful fruit and dairy farm.
14. While there are a number of historical sites that can still be visited today, some of the most popular include Mansfield, Missouri; De Smet, South Dakota, the setting for the final five books in the Little House series; and Walnut Grove, Minnesota. A lesser-known gem is the collection of papers of Rose Wilder Lane which resides at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa.
15. Today, the estimated worth of the Little House fortune is $100 million. The heir to the fortune is Abigail MacBride Allen, the daughter of Roger Lea MacBride. Roger was Rose Wilder Lane’s business agent and lawyer. He was also the 1976 Libertarian candidate for President and a co-producer of the Little House on the Prairie television series.