Karen Grassle (b. February 25, 1942) (pronounced "grass-lee") is a California born television and theater actress best known for playing Caroline Ingalls, the wife of Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Grassle's mother was a restaurant manager, and her father managed a gas station.
In an interview, Karen remarked that she loved playing the role of Caroline, she said it made her feel like she was part of a great big family. She graduated from high school in 1959 serving as the student body's vice-president, and she then entered the University of California, Berkeley.
She graduated with 2 BA degrees in 1965, one in English, the other in Dramatic Art. She received a scholarship to the London Academy of music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), and eventually became head of its Voice Department.
Her first acting job in New York City was in the Gingham Tree, and she began calling herself "Gabriel Tree". (Before that, she had used the name Kay Dillinger.) Using this name, she auditioned for the role of Caroline, in Little House, and won the part against 47 other actresses. Ed Friendly convinced her to revert to her birth name.
She was married to Leon Russom. In 1982, she married J. Allen Radford, and later Dr. Scott T. Sutherland in 1991. After the series ended, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she remained active in theater. She would later become co-founder of Sante Fe's Resource Theatre Company, also serving as the art director. Eventually, she moved back to California, where she lives with her daughter.
In 2006, she played in Driving Miss Daisy in the starring role of Miss Daisy at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
- 'She (Karen Grassle) could have placed in the Guiness World Record for the number of times she said "More coffee, dear?" and "Close the door!"' (From 'The way I see it A look back at my life on Little House' by Melissa Sue Anderson)
- 'So it went - a lot more of "More coffee, dear?" and "Close the door !" until one day, she stormed off the set, marched into her dressing room and stayed there. Wow. That was intense.' (From 'The way I see it A look back at my life on Little House' by Melissa Sue Anderson)
- Karen Grassle shaved her head for the play Wit, which she starred in as Vivian Bearing.
- Love of Life: Bonnie Draper
- Gunsmoke: Fran Carter
- Emily, Emily: Terry
- The President's Mistress: Donna Morton
- Battered: Susannah Hawks
- Crisis in Mid-air: Betsy Culver
- Harry's War: Kathy
- The Love Boat: Paula
- Cocaine: One Man's Seduction: Barbara Gant
- Hotel: Susan Walker
- Between the Darkness and the Dawn: Ellen Foster Holland
- Murder, She Wrote: Fay Hewitt, Christine Stoneham
- Wyatt Earp: Mrs. Sutherland
- Tales of Everyday Magic: Aunt Dorothy