White House Dream Team: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Drawing of Laura Ingalls Wilder Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born on February 7, 1867 in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Reflecting the pioneer spirit of the era, Laura's family moved several times throughout her childhood, living for periods in Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota. Life on the frontier was difficult, and Laura's family experienced many hardships that threatened their survival. For example, grasshoppers destroyed their crops two seasons in a row, and a winter of continuous blizzards threatened their supplies. Laura's brother died nine months after his birth, and Laura's sister Mary lost her eyesight at the young age of 15 because of a stroke. The lessons of life on the prairie in America's heartland made a lasting impression on Laura.

Laura and her sisters attended nearby schools during their childhood, and Laura's love for learning sparked her interest in teaching. At age 15 while living in De Smet, South Dakota, Laura earned her teaching certificate. In a rural area just twelve miles from De Smet, she began her first teaching job. During this time, she met and married Almanzo Wilder.

Following in the pioneer footsteps of their families, Laura and Almonzo struggled to establish homes first in South Dakota and later in Minnesota. They along with their daughter, Rose, suffered through droughts, hail storms, fires, and diseases. Laura and Almonzo eventually settled on a farm in Missouri called "Rocky Ridge."

While living in Rocky Ridge, Laura developed her writing abilities, and for 12 years, she edited the Missouri Ruralist. As she grew older, Laura became interested in sharing her pioneer experiences with the next generation. Unable to find a publisher for her autobiography called Pioneer Girl, Laura rewrote a section of the book and called it Little House in the Big Woods, which was published in 1932 when she was 65 years old. Soon after the book was released, Little House became a success. Children everywhere wanted to read more stories about the Ingalls. Laura continued to write books about her family and finished her 18-volume series in 1943. Her desire to share her family's history painted a picture of life on the frontier for generations of children.

Brain Challenge:

  1. Name a place where Laura lived as a child.
  2. Describe a hardship Laura and her family faced on the frontier.
  3. What profession did Laura choose at age 15?
  4. How old was Laura when she published her first book?
  5. Why did Laura choose to write about her childhood?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

February 7, 1867 in the Big Woods of Wisconsin

February 10, 1957 in Mansfield, Missouri

To teach and later in life, to write about her childhood

Frontier schools near her home in the Big Woods of Wisconsin and in Walnut Grove, Minnesota

Her writings capture the essence of pioneer life in the last half of the 19th Century

Character trait

Baseball Players
Jackie Robinson
Roberto Clemente
Lou Gehrig

Red Grange
Jesse Owens
Wilma Rudolph

Samuel Adams
Esther De Berdt Reed
Lemuel Haynes

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune
Américo Paredes
Anne Sullivan Macy

John Jay
Clara Barton
Booker T. Washington

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Theodor Seuss Geisel
Elwyn Brooks White

More Artists
Henry Tanner
Gilbert Stuart
Mary Cassatt