|Laura Ingalls Wilder|
|Born:||February 7, 1867|
|Died:||February 10, 1957|
|Family/Relatives:||Caroline Ingalls (mother) |
Charles Ingalls (father)
Mary Ingalls Kendall (sister)
|Spouse (s):||Almanzo Wilder|
|Height||5'4" (as an adult)|
|Hair Color:||Brown, later lighter Brown|
|Eye Color:||Light brown|
|Played by:||Melissa Gilbert|
|Appeared on/in:||Little House on the Prairie|
|First episode appearance:||"Little House on the Prairie: The Pilot" (TV pilot movie)|
|Last appeared in:||The Last Farewell (series finale /TV movie)|
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (often referred to as “Half Pint” by her Pa and “Beth” by her husband) was the second of five children born to Caroline and Charles Ingalls in the dense pine forests near Pepin, Wisconsin, on February 7, 1867. As a little girl, Laura was the tomboy of the Ingalls daughters, preferring fishing or playing baseball over other more ladylike activities. After moving to Walnut Grove, Laura met Nellie Oleson and the two were soon embroiled in a famous rivalry that lasted throughout much of their childhood, although they did make amends when the two were older.
Laura was a spirited young tomboy who would do anything just to go fishing or play three-cat with the other children. She “hated homework,” which she hinted at throughout the first few episodes of the series, but attested to as fact in the episode, “The Wisdom of Solomon,” when a Negro boy comes to the Ingalls’ household hoping for a better home and education.
Laura was also a big fan of animals and had many pets. One of her first pets was her dog, Jack, who was her constant companion for many years. She also had a horse, Bunny, who was sold to the Olesons in order to buy Caroline a stove for Christmas. Laura did manage to get Bunny back, but Bunny’s life was ended abruptly when she ran over a barb-wired fence. Ultimately, Pa had to shoot Bunny in order to put her out of pain. Jack passed away as well in the Ingalls’ barn and was buried on a hill in Plum Creek. Laura’s second dog, Bandit, remained faithfully by her side throughout her teenage years.
Around the time of Jack’s passing, Laura made a new friend in Andrew Garvey. The two were inseparable for a time, and together, they cared for a mother wolf and her pups and solved a series of burglaries that plagued the town of Walnut Grove.
When the Ingallses move to Winoka for a brief period, they meet Albert, an orphan whom they would later adopt. Andrew and Laura became fast friends with Albert. Shortly after returning to Walnut Grove, Laura met her future husband, Almanzo Wilder, who was the brother of the new schoolteacher, Eliza Jane, who later helped Laura with her teaching exams.
According to the original series Of books, Laura was born in the thick pine woods along the eastern edge of the Mississippi River Valley near Pepin, Wisconsin, often referred to by Laura and her family as “The Big Woods.” However, when living conditions began to worsen in the area, Charles and Caroline decided to move the family to Kansas, where they planned to settle on a farm on the open prairie.
During the treacherous journey, the Ingallses were crossing a stream and realized that they had not put Jack in the wagon. Laura alerted Pa to this when they were crossing, but he said it was too late to go back. Jack was quickly swept downstream. Later, while Caroline and the girls set up camp, Charles went to look for Jack, but with no success. However, their prayers were soon answered when late one evening, Laura heard a noise from the nearby grassy plains. A furry wet head popped up and Jack joyfully bounded right back into Laura’s waiting arms.
Eventually, the Ingallses settled on the wide open prairie of Kansas. One day, Charles brought Isaiah Edwards (hereafter known to Laura as “Mr. Edwards”) home with him to help build their cabin. Edwards would become a lifelong friend of Laura’s. Soon after building a home and embarking on this new life in Kansas, the Ingallses, along with all the other white settlers who had moved into the area, were ordered to leave by the government because they were on the “wrong side” of a boundary separating Native American lands from lands open to settlement, as Charles said. Laura and Mr. Edwards shared a tearful goodbye, but they would soon meet again.
The Ingalls family then traveled back north and settled on another farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Mary and Laura soon had to attend school and were dubbed “country girls” by Nellie Oleson. The teacher of the school was Eva Beadle, known as “Miss Beadle,” of whom both Laura and Mary grew very fond. Laura also got her love of Lemon Verbena perfume from Miss Beadle.
Once, when Laura was ill, Charles found Mr. Edwards drunk in a saloon, and graciously offered him a peaceful place to rehabilitate back in Walnut Grove (unbeknownst to Laura, who thought he was merely visiting.) Mr. Edwards also “took a shine” to Grace Snider, a widow who worked in the Walnut Grove Post Office. Laura and her family were close friends with Grace.
Not long after, Laura developed a crush on an older student, Johnny Johnson, who was actually interested in Mary. This resulted in some sibling rivalry between Laura and Mary, which didn’t happen often. Charles later explained to Laura that someday, like Mary, she’ll have many boys interested in her. Though it might be merely coincidence, this could also indicate the start of Laura’s attraction to older men.
Laura later made a new friend named Olga Nordstrom at a party held by Nellie Oleson. Because of a birth defect, one of Olga’s legs was shorter than the other. Laura told Pa about this, and later, he got an idea to build a special shoe for Olga, so that both of her legs could be even. The Ingalls family then threw a party at their house, and Olga showed her father that she could play as the rest of the children.
One day when Laura was playing outside with her porcelain doll, it was accidentally broken when she set it down to play catch with Mary. When Mary was out with Jack, they found a raccoon, and Mary brought it home to cheer Laura up. Laura named him Jasper, and prided herself on teaching him tricks. When Laura brought Jasper to school, Jasper bites Laura on her finger and also bites Jack, and then rus off into the woods. Laura makes Mary promise to keep it a secret. After a raccoon who the Ingallses all think is Jasper kills some of their chickens, Charles fears that Jack might have rabies and keeps him in the barn.
Mary must then break the news to Pa that Jasper had already bitten Laura, and had promised not to tell. Charles planned to shoot Jack, but before he does, a raccoon shows up who is the real Jasper, and the Ingallses find out it was another raccoon who killed the chickens. Jack is untied and released from the barn, and the Ingalls family embraces their furry friend.
Soon after, Charles and Caroline have a fourth child, a son named Charles Frederick Ingalls, Jr. Laura becomes jealous of young Charles and refuses to pray for her brother’s good health. Such a choice causes Laura great pain shotly after, as Charles Jr. dies of an illness and Laura is crushed by guilt. That Sunday, Reverend Alden has a sermon about miracles, and Laura takes matters into her own hands and decides to run away and pray for a miracle. Laura decides that her late brother meant more to her father than herself, so she pledges herself to God on a mountain, asking to take his place in Heaven, so that the baby might come back to Earth to be with their father. Laura then meets Jonathan, a Heaven-sent stranger who shows Laura how much she does mean to her father. After endless searching, Charles and Mr. Edwards do find Laura and take her home. A few years later, Laura was given a second chance to embrace a new sibling with the coming of Charles and Caroline’s fifth child, a daughter named Grace.
When Laura was 15, Eliza Jane Wilder came to teach at Walnut Grove, bringing her brother Almanzo with her. Laura was immediately smitten with the handsome man, despite his being ten years her senior. Once meeting him, she relinquished most of her tomboyish ways in an attempt to become a “woman” so that she might win Almanzo’s affections. These attempts fail for most of the year, although she and Almanzo do become close friends. Eventually, a few weeks before her 16th birthday, she is presented her teacher’s certificate and sent to a school that had been rendered teacherless for a time. Almanzo volunteers to drive her back and forth from her job. This is when he begins to see her as a woman and begins to fall in love with her in return. On her 16th birthday, Almanzo presents Laura with a scarf and a kiss. The two begin a relationship and are quickly engaged.
Laura’s father, believing that Laura should wait until she was 18 to marry, does not approve of the engagement. When Laura chooses to keep ties with her father, Almanzo leaves town angrily. However, through a few twists of fate, both Laura and Almanzo make up in Sleepy Eye some time later. After Charles sees firsthand how devoted Laura is to Almanzo when he was sick, he agrees to let them marry when Laura turns 17. Both Laura and Almanzo agree to this compromise.
Laura and Almanzo’s courtship wasn’t perfect. The two fought constantly due to both of their dominant, controlling personalities clashing. Eventually, Almanzo bought a tract of land on which they could build their home. However, Almanzo had been cheated and was forced to sell the land back, putting all hopes for a marriage off. Wanting to strike out on her own and see her brother happy, Eliza Jane lied and said she had gotten engaged so that she’d be able to move out, thus giving Laura and Almanzo the house. With the wedding now back on, Laura and Almanzo finally marry on her sister Mary’s wedding anniversary in a small ceremony in the blind school.
Even after their marriage, Laura and Almanzo continued to fight, especially after Laura began suspecting Almanzo of having a love affair with an old school acquaintance. But Almanzo had not been cheating after all, and the two began settling in to a loving relationship. After a year, Laura becomes pregnant, to which Almanzo reacts enthusiastically. However, there are tough times ahead: Almanzo develops diphtheria, which leaves him paralyzed below the waist. He initially refuses physical therapy and instead chooses to wallow in self-pity. Laura goes into labor despite this, and gIves birth to a daughter, Rose Wilder, over which Almanzo sulks even more. Soon, their house is torn down in a tornado, and it is only after Laura herself gives up, that Almanzo finds the will and the inspiration to re-teach himself to walk.
Later, Ma and Pa Ingalls decided to move to Burr Oak, Iowa. Not long after, Almanzo’s brother, Royal, and his daughter, Jenny Wilder, came to stay with Almanzo, Laura, and Rose. What he didn’t tell them was that he was sick. Royal died leaving Jenny an orphan. Almanzo and Laura then decide to adopt Jenny.Also after Rose, Laura gives birth to a baby boy, called Baby Wilder, who dies shortly after birth. Laura was utterly heartbroken and initially blames Doc Baker. Soon after, Rose develops small pox. Doc Baker saves her life, and Laura realizes her baby’s death was not Doc Baker’s fault at all. However, the damage had been done; Doc Baker was going to leave Walnut Grove. When the coach is delayed, it gIves Laura the chance to tell Doc Baker she wants him to stay, which he does.
Behind the Scenes
| Michael Landon thought that Melissa Gilbert was a child that anybody could relate to. She wasn't over the top perfect gorgeous, she was a kid. She was a natural kid that loved everything, that wanted to experience everything, and, qualities of warmth and her qualities of honesty made it the part; she became Laura Ingalls, and that's what he Michael Landon loved so much about her.
Melissa was the child counterpart to Michael the adult. So the two of them when they would act together you absolutely felt that they were father and daughter, and you absolutely felt the camaraderie between the two of them. They laughed together, they had great fun together, and they really loved each other.
—Susan McCray, Casting Little House
Laura was portrayed by Melissa Gilbert throughout the series.
Laura died February 10, 1957, three days after her 90th birthday.