February 7, 2017

Happy 150th Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Our favorite prairie girl was born on February 7, 1867. It's been 150 years today!

Have you considered why we honor the life and legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder? Different aspects of Laura's life, when combined, give us plenty to celebrate! Laura wrote the Little House books about her pioneer childhood. Unlike many authors who have written about their childhoods, we have not forgotten Laura. I think that's because her books engage readers and immerse them in the late 1800s frontier. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Pioneer Girl

Laura spent her childhood on the American frontier as a pioneer. Laura experienced a childhood that people who didn't experience it did not fully understand. The pioneer life was a topic that had not been written about too much for children when Laura wrote the books. The Ingalls family certainly wasn't the only family moving, homesteading, and living west of the Mississippi River, but Laura's experience recorded (though fictionalized) in well-written books left a lasting legacy.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Writer

Before Laura tried her hand at a book, she spent about fifteen years writing for the Missouri Ruralist, a weekly farm newspaper. Her first article ran on the front page of the paper just days after Laura's 44th birthday.

Years later, with encouragement (and a lot of editorial assistance) from her daughter, Laura chose to write about her pioneer childhood for adults. If her first attempt at this (Pioneer Girl, linked to review) had been successfully published back then, we wouldn't have the Little House books we appreciate today. It was because that book did not initially sell that Pioneer Girl was fictionalized for children. Her first book was published when Laura was 65 years old.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Little House Books

The first of the Little House books was published in 1932. Little House in the Big Woods (and all of the Little House books) celebrated independence and hard work in a way that Americans during the Great Depression embraced. It helped readers to understand how the pioneers of the 1800s lived. Laura's descriptive writing engaged her readers and brought the frontier to life. Laura knew her characters and how to make them alive to her readers.


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~ Annette Whipple