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|Laura Ingalls Wilder|
Brown, later lighter Brown
5'4" (as an adult)
Caroline Ingalls (mother)
|Behind the scenes|
Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder (often referred to as "Half Pint") was the second of five children born to Caroline and Charles Ingalls in the dense pine forests near Pepin, Wisconsin on February 7, 1867. When she was young, Laura was the tomboy of the Ingalls daughters; preferring to go fishing or play baseball instead of doing more ladylike activities. After moving to Walnut Grove, Laura soon met Nellie Oleson and the two became rivals throughout most of their childhoods, although they did make amends when the two were older.
Laura is a spirited young tom-boy, who would do anything just to get out fishing or play three cat with the other children. She "hated homework" which she hinted throughout the first few series', but said for a fact in the episode, The Wisdom of Solomon, where a negro boy comes to the Ingalls hoping for a better home and education. Laura was a big fan of animals and had many pets. One of her first pets was her dog, Jack, who was her companion for many years. She also had a horse, Bunny, who she 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 cut short when she fell over a wired fence. Ultimately, Pa had to shoot Bunny to put her out of pain. Jack passed away as well in the Ingalls' barn and was buried on a hill in Plum Creek. Her next dog was Bandit who she had throughout the remainder of her teen years.
Around the time when Jack passed away, Laura made a new friend, Andrew Garvey. The two did many things together including caring for a mother wolf and her babies and solving a series of burglaries in Walnut Grove.
When the Ingalls moved to Winoka for a short time, they met Albert, an orphan who they would later adopt. Andrew and Laura were also good friends with Albert. Not long 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.
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 made the decision to move to Kansas, where they planned to settle on a farm on the open prairie. During their treacherous journey, the Ingalls were crossing a stream and did not put Jack in the wagon. Laura mentioned this to Pa when they were crossing, but he said it was too late to go back. Jack later got washed downstream.
While Caroline and the girls set up camp Charles went to look for Jack, but to no avail. Their prayers were answered though when one evening Laura heard a noise from a nearby grassy area and a furry wet head popped up and it was Jack. Eventually the Ingalls settled in the open prairies of Kansas, and one day Charles brought Mr. Edwards with him to help him build their home. Edwards would become a lifelong friend of Laura.
After building a home and turning over a new leaf in Kansas, The Ingalls, along with all the other white settlers who had moved to 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 said a tearful goodbye to each other, 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 as Country Girls by Nellie Oleson. The teacher of the school was Miss Beadle, who Laura and Mary were both fond of as Miss Beadle was of them. 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 offered him to come back to Walnut Grove so he could be rehabilitated, unbeknown to Laura who thought he was just on a visit. Mr. Edwards also took a liking or "took a shine" in prairie talk, to Grace Snider, a widow who worked in the post office. Laura and Grace were also good friends, as was the rest of the Ingalls family with her.
Not long after, Laura had a crush on an older student, Johnny Johnson; who was 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 who are interested in her. Though it might be a coincidence, this also may have been 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 were 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 glass doll, it accidentally got broke 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, and because of food aggression and the many children at the school, Jasper bit Laura on her finger and also bites Jack, and then ran away into the woods. Laura makes Mary promise to keep it a secret. After a raccoon who the Ingalls 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, but 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 Ingalls find out it was another raccoon who killed the chickens and Jack is untied from the barn, and the Ingalls embraced their furry friend.
Soon after, Charles and Caroline had 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 soon 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 to took his place in heaven, so that he may come back to earth to be with her father. Laura soon met Jonathan, a heaven-sent stranger who showed 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 fifteen, 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 sixteenth birthday, she is given her teaching license 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 sixteenth birthday, Almanzo presented 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 eighteen to marry, did not approve of the engagement. When Laura chose to keep ties with her father, Almanzo left town angrily. However, though a few twists of fate, both Laura and Almanzo end up making up in Sleepy Eye some time later, and after Charles saw how devoted Laura and Almanzo were to each other while Almanzo was sick, he agreed to let them marry when Laura turned seventeen. Both Laura and Almanzo agreed 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 for them to make their home on. However, Almanzo had been cheated and was forced to sell the land back, putting all hopes for a marriage off. Eliza Jane, wanting to strike out on her own and see her brother, she lied and said she had gotten engaged so that she may move out, therefore giving Laura and Almanzo the house, and the wedding could continue. They married on her sister Mary's 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 the loving relationship. After awhile, Laura became pregnant, to which Almanzo
reacted enthusiastically. However, tough times were ahead. Almanzo developed diphtheria, which left him paralyzed below the waist. He refused physical therapy and instead chose to pity himself and wallow around. Laura went into labor in spite of this and gave birth to a daughter, Rose Wilder, to which Almanzo sulked even more. Soon, the house was torn down in a tornado, and only after Laura gave up herself did Almanzo find the inspiration to re-teach himself how to walk.
Later, Ma and Pa decided to move to Burr Oak, Iowa. Not long after, Almanzo's brother, Royal, and his daughter, Jenny Wilder, came to stay with 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 decided to adopt Jenny.Also after Rose, Laura gave birth to a baby boy, called Baby Wilder, who died shortly after his birth. Laura was utterly heartbroken and blamed Dr. Baker. Soon after, Rose developed small pox. Dr. Baker saved her life and then Laura realized her baby's death was not Dr. Baker's fault, but the damage was done and Dr. Baker was going to leave Walnut Grove. As the coach was late it gave Laura the chance to tell Dr. Baker she wanted him to stay, and so he did.
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.