Laura Ingalls Wilder House Museum
Rocky Ridge Farm - Original farmhouse
Rocky Ridge Farm - Rock House
Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Ingalls family as depicted in the 1974 TV series, Little House on the Prairie
Backstory and Context
Born on February 7, 1867, to Charles and Caroline Ingalls in Pepin, Wisconsin, Laura Ingalls Wilder would eventually go on to be one of the most well-known children’s authors in the country. The Wisconsin cabin in which she was born would become the setting for her debut novel Little House in the Big Woods in 1932. The Ingalls family moved around quite a bit during Wilder’s childhood and many locations would become the settings for her books, such as Little House on the Prairie (1935), On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937), and By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939). Due to their frequent relocations, the Ingalls children were often schooled at home, though they attended local schools whenever possible. Due to this background and her family’s financial needs, Wilder became a certified teacher at age 15, in 1882.
Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder in 1885. The following winter, they welcomed their daughter, Rose. In 1894, the Wilders bought what they would call Rocky Ridge Farm, which is currently known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder House Museum.
In the early 1910s, Rose, working as a reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin, encouraged her mother to publish stories about her childhood. Originally, Wilder penned an autobiography titled Pioneer Girl, which was rejected by numerous publishers. Over the next few years, Laura and Rose worked to alter the manuscript into a children’s book. Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932, and Wilder continued to publish the “Little House” series until 1943; it contains eight novels. Wilder remained at Rocky Ridge Farm until her death in 1957.
In 1974, the made-for-television movie Little House on the Prairie premiered, which in turn sparked a television series of the same name. The television program brought in a new generation of “Little House” fans, and also renewed interest in Wilder’s original book series. The television show was nominated for eighteen Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, and won two People’s Choice Awards.
In 2008, Little House on the Prairie: The Musical premiered to record breaking crowds in Minneapolis, and later toured 28 cities in the US and Canada. Notably, Melissa Gilbert (the actress who played Laura Ingalls in the 1970s television series) played the role of Ma in the musical. The musical was co-sponsored by both Habitat for Humanity and The Seeing Eye; in every city the show visited during the tour, a Habitat for Humanity home was built. The Seeing Eye is an organization which breeds and trains guide dogs for the visually impaired. According to the Little House website, a second musical is being written, and “will focus on the special relationship among the Ingalls sisters.”
In 2018, controversy surrounded Wilder’s name, as the Association for Library Service to Children chose to change the name of their Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The ALSC cited negative and stereotypical presentations of Native Americans in Wilder’s work for the cause of this change, but insisted that changing the name of the award did not denote censorship of Wilder’s works.
Laura's Home on Rocky Ridge Farm, Laura Ingalls Wilder Home. Accessed November 23rd 2020. https://lauraingallswilderhome.com/lauras-homes-on-rocky-ridge/.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Biography. Accessed November 23rd 2020. https://www.biography.com/writer/laura-ingalls-wilder.
Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, Little House on the Prairie. Accessed November 23rd 2020. https://littlehouseontheprairie.com/about-us/little-house-on-the-prairie-the-musical/.
Little House on the Prairie TV Series, Little House on the Prairie. Accessed November 23rd 2020. https://littlehouseontheprairie.com/little-house-on-the-prairie-tv-show/.