Carrie Mary and Laura Ingalls

Laura Ingalls Wilder The Real Little House on the Prairie


Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder was the author of many books about her childhood. Most Americans are familiar with her because of the very popular television show in the 1970s.

Changes to the Books and the Tv show

Whether you are a fan of the books or of the Tv, you should know that there were changes to both. Of course, Laura only had creative control over the books, but she did take a few liberties with the stories. Mostly she changed her age in some of the early books because her publisher didn’t believe a child of 4 would have such vivid memories of her childhood. She also omitted some time periods in her childhood, so that by the time the last books were published her book age caught up to her real age.

The changes to the Tv show were much more.

The family only lived in Walnut Grove a very short time

Walnut Grove - Laura Ingalls Wilder only lived here 3 years
Although the family lived in Walnut Grove through the entire television series, the real family spent less than 3 non-consecutive years there. Here is a list of all the places Laura Lived.
1867-Born in Wisconsin
1869-Moved to Missouri and to what would later become Kansas
1871-Back to Wisconsin
1874-Walnut Grove Minnesota
1874-Lake City, Minnesota
1874-South Troy Minnesota
1876-Burr Oak, Iowa
1877-Walnut Grove Minnesota
1879-Dakota Territory
1880-De Smet, South Dakota
1889-Married to Almonzo
1890-Spring Valley, Minnesota
1890-Westville, Florida
1892-De Smet, South Dakota
1894-1957 Mansfield Missouri
I found a fasicnating interactive timeline for Laura’s Wilders life here.


Laura Ingalls Wilder outlived all her Sisters

Laura was the second oldest child. She is pictured here in the middle with Mary on the right and Carrie on the left. Although all the sisters lived fairly long lives, she outlived Carrie by 11 years and her youngest sister Grace by 14 years.

The sisters were very close. Laura relied on her sisters’ memories for helping her to write stories of their youth.

Unlike her television counterpart, Mary never married. After their mother’s passing Grace and Carrie lived with Mary to care for her.

Why was Laura called Bess?

Just as on the tv show and books, She was called Bess by her husband Almanzo, whom she called Manly. The reason that he called her Bess, which was never revealed on the television show was that he had a sister named Laura, so her called her Bess, short for her middle name Elizabeth, to avoid confusion.

She didn’t enjoy teaching

A prairie schoolroom liked where Laura Ingalls Wilder would have taught

She admitted in later life that she did not particularly enjoy teaching but felt the responsibility from a young age to help her family financially, and wage-earning opportunities for women were limited. After she was married Almanzo, she stopped teaching.

She knew about cars, radio, and television!

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder lived a long time

Just the name Laura Ingalls stirs up of images of covered wagons and walking to school, and overnights trip to the town of Sleepyeye, which today by car is a 45-minute journey.
Her husband Almanzo was born a few years before the Civil War, and Laura just a few years after, but they both lived until their 90s. They both lived through World War 1, the Great Depression, and World War 2, and with all of the technologies of the day. Almanzo died in 1949 and Laura in 1957. So she even lived to see Rock and Roll! She just missed the launch of sputnik by a few months!

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