Laura Ingalls Wilder always said that she loved to play with her sisters and they were always busy, but what she loved the best were the stories that her father would tell. Those stories would become one of the most popular series of books of all time, even though Wilder’s intent was simply to make sure her father’s stories were preserved. The Little House series has won numerous awards, been the foundation of a popular television show, and led to the creation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.
Who won the first Wilder Award? She did, of course, 3 years before she passed away just 3 days shy of her 90th birthday. Here are some additional fun facts about this celebrated author.
1. She Wasn’t a Writer
The first stories in the Little House series wasn’t published until Wilder reached the age of 60. After telling her father’s stories, the last book in her series is a reflection of what her own life had become. Her husband was a carpenter and she was a seamstress. Eventually they saved up $100 and purchased a 40 acre farm that would become the writing place for the beloved series of books. It was her daughter that would convince her to write the books – Wilder always thought that no one would really care about them.
2. A Territorial Struggle
Wilder met her husband Almanzo while living in the Dakota Territory. It occurred sometime between 1879-1885 as the two were married in the latter year. They would have their first daughter, named Rose, 18 months after their marriage. Life was joyous, but a struggle. Diphtheria affected the family in 1888 and eventually caused her husband to have a stroke. They lost an infant son the next year and their home burned down. It was not an easy life.
3. The Nickname Controversy
If you’re familiar with the television show, then you probably know that Wilder’s nickname in the series is Beth. In real life, however, her husband often called her “Bess.” This is because Almanzo’s sister was also named Laura and the nickname helped to remove any confusion as to who was being addressed in the conversation.
4. 64 Good Years
Almanzo and Laura stayed together throughout their entire lives. They celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary before Almanzo passed away in 1949.
5. Stories of Violence
Many of the stories in the Little House series are considered charming, quaint, and even romantic. Lost are the short tales of extreme violence that sometimes afflicted the territorial plains of the United States. Take the story about the teacher in Farmer Boy. There were older boys who came from Hardscrabble Hill that were known for their bullying tactics on teachers. The older boys even killed one of their teachers. Now a blacksnake whip helped to put them into shape, but think about that for a second. The boys were purposely assaulting their teachers and the story is considered a classic part of Americana.
6. The Long Cold Winter
Wilder survived one of the harshest winters the Dakota region had ever seen and her story inspired many to find the courage and inspiration to survive their own difficult times. The family had moved from Minnesota to the Dakota Territory after one harsh winter, but the second in the Dakotas was even worse. Wilder had to burn their furniture and survive without basic necessities and The Long Winter is one of her most amazing stories of all.
7. An Early Teacher
Wilder began school at the age of 4 and would continue learning informally since her family was moving around the Midwest so often. By the age of 15, she had been able to obtain a certificate which allowed her to teach. For three years, she worked as a teacher while she was pursuing her own education. Wilder’s teaching career ended once her marriage began.
8. A Frequent Contributor
Wilder made the most of her “senior” years when she embraced literature. She contributed to numerous magazines, including McCall’s and Country Gentleman. She worked as the poultry editor for the St. Louis Star. The Missouri Ruralist even hired her as a home-based editor, a position she held for more than a decade.
Laura Ingalls Wilder changed the way many think about the 19th century expansionism of the United States. Traveling by covered wagon, the homesteading life was brought to reality thanks to her stories. Or, should we say, the stories of her father.