Tag: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder Trivia and Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the death of Laura Ingalls Wilder and in her honor I thought I’d share a bit of trivia about her life and accomplishments.

 

  • Laura was 65 when the first of her Little House books, Little House in the Big Woods, was published. It was 11 years later, when she was 76, that the 8th and final book in the series was published.
  • Laura received her teaching certificate at age 15 and taught in one room schoolhouses until she married Almanzo Wilder at age 18.
  • The Little House books were not her first paid writing accomplishments. At age 42 she went to work for the St. Louis Farmer as their poultry columnist. She eventually went on to write columns for the Missouri Ruralist, McCall’s Magazine and The Country Gentleman. In order to give her writing more credibility with male readers, her columns were published under the name A.J.Wilder.

 

 

  • As a young child, she lived through a devastating invasion of over 3.5 TRILLION locusts. It was one of the worst natural disasters the country had ever faced to that date, causing an estimated $116 billion worth of damage and causing near starvation for many settlers,, including her own family. The culprits, the Rocky Mountain locusts went extinct about 1902, though no one knows the reason why.
  • Laura had some interesting leaves on her family tree. One ancestor, Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier, was hanged as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.  She was also related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt through her great grandmother, Margaret Delano Ingalls.

 

  • She was once told that writing for children was a waste of time. I’m so glad she ignored that advice! Her Little House books have remained in print continuously since the 1930s and the series has sold over 60 million copies and have been published in 26 languages.
  • Laura received lots of fan mail over the course of her writing life. After her Little House series took off she averaged about 50 pieces of mail per day. In fact, on her last birthday she received over 1000 bits of correspondence.
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award was established in 1954 by the American Library Association. Its purpose was to honor authors and illustrators whose children’s books have made a major impact on children’s literature. Laura was, of course, the first recipient. Since then, other recipients have included Theodor Geisal (Dr. Seuss), Maurice Sendak and Beverly Cleary. However, the organization announced in June 2018 that it planned to change the name of the award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award due to the way Laura portrayed Native Americans in her books. In their statement the organization added this caveat: “Changing the name of the award, or ending the award and establishing a new award, does not prohibit access to Wilder’s works or suppress discussion about them. Neither option asks or demands that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children.”

  • Prior to the establishment of her namesake award, Laura had already won Newberry Honors on four of her Little House books.
  • A fun little bit of Laura Ingalls Wilder trivia – In the summer of 2017, Laura (in her young pig-tailed girl persona) was sculpted in butter at the Iowa State Fair in honor of the 150th anniversary of her birth.
  • Laura died on February 10, 1957, just 3 day after her 90th birthday. She was survived by her daughter and only child, Rose. Rose never had any children of her own, but Roger MacBride whom she met when he was a teenager and who later became her lawyer and literary agent, became her heir. He inherited an estate  that has a present day value of over $100 million and was responsible for licensing the television rights to the Little House books.

So there you have it, some interesting tidbits from the life of one of the most beloved of children authors. Were any of these new to you? Do you have some fun facts of your own to add? Have you read the books yourself?  

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder at Rocky Ridge

 

Back in April, I attended a writing retreat in Branson, MO. It was a wonderful time of rest and fun and great writerly conversations. But thanks to a reader’s recommendation, one of my favorite parts of the trip was a little side journey to Mansfield, MO. When I discovered that the home where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote the Little House books was only an hour away, I knew I couldn’t miss the chance to visit.

I grew up reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television series. It is because of Laura’s books and others like them that I became so enamored with historical fiction. Getting to actually walk through the house that Almanzo built for Laura, to see the room where their daughter Rose slept as a girl, to see the small desk where Laura sat to write her novels . . . it gave me chills.

The tour guide took us through the house in the order that it was built. It started as two rooms and expanded over the years to contain three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, music room, small library, and front parlor. Laura and Almanzo both lived into their 90’s, and the caretakers have kept their house almost exactly as they left it upon their deaths. There were several lamps that Almanzo made by hand along with chairs and other furnishings. They wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside the house, but I bought a few postcards to help me remember.

This the back of the house where the tour began. There is a screened off porch leading to the kitchen, a narrow ladder staircase that led to Rose’s childhood bedroom upstairs, and the dining room just past the kitchen.

Front of the house. This is the section built on in later years . If you walk up the steps, you will enter the front parlor. The library will be in a little walled alcove behind the fireplace on the left and the music room will be down the hall to the right. There is also a doorway to the right before the music room that led to Laura’s writing desk, her and Almanzo’s bedroom, and a staircase to a guest room on the second floor where Rose would often invite her New York friends to stay when they needed a break from city life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Wilder Lane was a successful writer well before her mother decided to pen the stories of her life. Rose published several novels and wrote for many popular magazines. She traveled extensively in Europe and made quite a nice living for herself. So in 1928 before the stock market crash that would send the country into an economic crisis, Rose decided to build her parents a new house. She purchased it from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and hired an architect to make a few structural changes. They called it The Rock House because Rose had it fashioned like an English stone cottage. It was less than a mile from their farm at Rocky Ridge. Laura and Almanzo moved to the Rock House and stayed there for eight years. But in 1936 when Rose decided to move back to New York, the Wilders moved back to their beloved farm house. As much as they appreciate their daughter’s gift, the Rock House just wasn’t home.

Back at Rocky Ridge, we had the opportunity to visit a wonderful museum filled with artifacts from Laura’s life including her Pa’s fiddle and original manuscripts. There were notes in the margins where Rose had obviously given her mother editorial advice, and no doubt Rose’s connections with the publishing world in New York opened doors for her mother that Laura would never had been able to open for herself, but seeing those manuscripts in Laura’s own handwriting made it abundantly clear in my mind that those who claim Rose was the true author of the Little House stories are mistaken.

The final place we visited was the small community cemetery where the Wilders are laid to rest. Having seen their lives portrayed on television and in novels made them seem larger than life. Yet seeing their graves made it truly sink in that they were real people, living real lives. What an amazing adventure they shared.

So, if you ever happen to travel through Missouri, do yourself a favor and spend a couple hours in Mansfield with this amazing family.

  • Did you grow up reading the Little House books?
  • Did you watch the TV show?
  • Besides Laura, who was your favorite Little House character?

Heading to Branson

Tomorrow I leave to join a group of writer friends in Branson, MO for a weekend retreat. I can’t wait. It’s going to be fabulous. No only are we renting a house that has antique writing desks in every bedroom (the owner is a writer, herself!) but we will be filling the creative well with brainstorming sessions, quiet writing time, and play time, too.

On Friday night we are going to see the live production of Samson at the Sights and Sounds Theater.

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On Saturday, we are participating in a Meet & Greet at the Taneyhills Library. We will be participating in a Christian Fiction Panel Discussion and interacting with readers – always a joy.

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If you happen to be in the Branson area, we would love to have you come by.

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On Sunday, thanks to a reader’s recommendation, a few of us plan to drive an hour to Mansfield to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder farmhouse and museum. This is the location where she and Almanzo lived out their later years and where Laura wrote all of the Little House on the Prairie books.

I’m so excited by the prospect of seeing Laura’s home and learning more about the woman who wrote the stories that inspired my love of pioneering the west. I grew up reading her books and faithfully watched every episode of the television series. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to see this!

As it turns out, the city of Branson itself evolved into a tourist haven because of a book. The Shepherd of the Hills was published in 1907. The book was written by Harold Bell Wright, a young minister who had spent extensive time visiting the Ozarks in southern Missouri near the Branson area. This story of mountain folklore and forgiveness became extremely popular. Almost overnight, tourists started flocking to Branson – the now famous Shepherd of the Hills area. The book has been made into a feature film four times – the most famous iteration staring everyone’s favorite cowboy – John Wayne.

  • Have you ever visited a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum? I think there are a couple across the midwest.
  • Have you read or seen Shepherd of the Hills?
  • Have you ever visited Branson, MO?