When Laura Elizabeth Ingalls got married, she asked the minister to change the wording in the wedding ceremony. She did not want to promise to always obey her husband, and in this as in many things she got her way. But she and Almanzo (whom she called Manly—he called her Bess) had a long and happy marriage working a farm not on the prairie that Laura loved so well but in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, leaving the Little House her Pa built far behind.
How did she go from prairie girl to mountain girl? The road to the Ozarks was a hard one for the young married couple. Luckily, Laura had always been strong as well as headstrong. Even when she was a young teenager she still liked playing baseball during her free time at school instead of sitting and chatting politely with the more ladylike girls. She used her strength for others, too. So that her sister Mary could go to the school for the blind, she worked every job she could—sewing, cooking, cleaning, waiting tables, and looking after the sick. When she was fifteen years old, a man from a neighboring community asked her to come and teach school. Although she was really too young to be allowed to do it and really didn’t want to be a teacher, she agreed. The money was good, and it would help her family.
Her teaching days were over when she married Almanzo Wilder, but that did not mean she stopped working. To be a farm wife on newly claimed homestead meant doing all the hands-on housework and giving her husband a hand in the fields when he needed it. The days were long and hard. Their farm buildings burned, they became terribly ill, and Manly had a stroke that left him partially paralyzed the rest of his days. Because his health was broken, Almanzo, Laura, and baby Rose went to find a climate that would be better for him than South Dakota’s harsh winters. First, they headed south—way, way south. But Florida was too full of alligators and had too much heat for Laura. They wanted to find a place that would suit them both, and that place turned out to be Rocky Ridge Farm
, near Mansfield, Missouri.
Almanzo was not sure he wanted to live at Rocky Ridge Farm. It –was- very rocky after all, and he was used to farming the smoother prairie land. But Laura said this was the only place that would suit her, and, in time, it was turned into a beautiful haven that sheltered them for the rest of their lives. But their young daughter Rose did not like the simple, hard-working farm life. She wanted to be a city girl, so when her aunt offered her a chance to move in with her and go to a bigger high school, she took it. She went on to become a famous writer herself and traveled the world. Laura stayed put, but she, too, enjoyed writing for magazines. Some of her stories were about her early days with Ma and Pa, Mary, Carrie, and Grace.
Rose encouraged her mother to write an entire book about her days as a pioneer girl, and Laura found this was a wonderful way to bring back memories of people she loved and tell about the things she knew to be important and true. She was 60-years-old when she first started writing down the books that would be favorites for generations to come. She also shared stories from Almanzo’s boyhood, too. The day came when Laura Ingalls was more famous than her better-educated and worldlier daughter just for telling stories about her early days on the prairie, but those stories contained so much honesty and pluck—much like Laura herself—that they would be cherished for always.
The Little House series has inspired a television show and various prequels written by other writers about Laura’s ancestors. But the original stories are the most-loved:
To learn more about Laura Ingalls Wilder, check out these books from the library:
For young readers:
West from Home
(Laura’s letters to Almanzo while visiting her daughter in San Francisco)
For older readers