Mary Amelia Ingalls Kendall was the first daughter of Caroline and Charles Ingalls. She had seven siblings altogether. Laura, Carrie, Charles Jr. (who died shortly after birth), and Grace. Albert, and later, James, and Cassandra, were adopted after Mary left home. The family met Albert, a runaway who had been a ward of the state, after they moved temporarily to Winoka to be close to Mary. Siblings James and Cassandra were adopted later, back in Walnut Grove, after their parents died in a tragic wagon crash. Mary was an adult at the time, and married to Adam Kendall, whom she met at a blind school in Iowa.
In her childhood growing up in Walnut Grove, Mary was an excellent student and spent most of her free time studying. When she was fifteen years old, Mary went blind. Her failing eyesight was first noticed after a yearly checkup at the eye doctor in Mankato. After returning with new lenses in her glasses, she found her vision was still not improved. When Charles took Mary back to the doctor to find out what the problem was, the news was not good; the doctor told Charles that scarlet fever had weakened the nerves in Mary's eyes and she didn't have much time left before she would go blind.
Charles hesitated to tell her this, though he finally did, and a few days later her sight was gone. Doctor Baker suggested that they send Mary to a blind school so she could have some kind of life; Charles and Caroline agreed and made plans for her to be taught at a blind school in Iowa.
After arriving at the school, Mary met her teacher, Adam Kendall. Originally she resented Adam, but began to change her opinion of him soon after. Later, Adam and Mary fell in love and got married. They had one son named Adam Kendall Jr., after Mary miscarried her first child. Sadly, while Adam Kendall Jr. was still a baby, he died, along with Alice Garvey, in a fire at the blind school because Alice told Mary she would get the baby but ended up saved another student first, causing a delay in getting the baby and herself out. The fire was unintentionally started by Mary's adopted brother, Albert Ingalls, and a friend, who were smoking in the basement of the building during a party. Mary went into a state of shock after this, and took some time to come out of it.
Later, her husband and teacher Adam regained his sight, and they moved to New York, where Adam was a lawyer. Mary and Adam's final appearance on the show was in a Christmas episode, where they traveled into Walnut Grove just prior to a blizzard, and spent Christmas at Charles and Caroline's house.
Shortly after this, Charles, Caroline, Albert, Carrie, and their other children moved out of Walnut Grove. Laura, Almanzo, and their baby, Rose, were the only family members to remain in the town. Although Charles and Albert visited several times, Adam and Mary remained in New York after that.
Mary Ingalls went blind when she was 15 years old. This event was covered in the two-part episode, "I'll Be Waving as You Drive Away." The title for the episode comes from a line spoken by Adam Kendall when Mary was leaving to go back home to Walnut Grove. This event started when the Ingalls were having dinner, and Mary remarked that her eyes were tired, probably from studying so much. Charles suggested that they go see the eye doctor, since it was time for her annual check-up anyway.
At this visit the doctor told Charles that Mary needed a stronger prescription and that her eyes looked fine. Once back in Walnut Grove, Mary found that this prescription did not help her see any better than the previous one. They re-visited the doctor, and the news was not what they expected. The Doctor told Charles that a previous case of scarlet fever had weakened the nerves in Mary's eyes and she would soon be blind.
When Charles told Mary this, she was very sad, and became bitter for a short time because she felt she was a burden to her parents. Later, they decided to send Mary to a blind school in Iowa. Mary eventually became a teacher, just as she and her parents had always dreamed.
Marriage and Children
Mary Ingalls married Adam Kendall after meeting him a year before at the blind school in Iowa. This was shown in the episode "The Wedding". When Mary originally met Adam, he seemed like a heartless teacher to her. Of course, Mary's sadness at losing her sight probably contributed to this greatly. Her opinion of him changed after accepting the fact that she was blind, and she remarked that he was "the most wonderful teacher in the world."
In the episode "The Sound Of Children" Mary finds out she is three months pregnant with her and Adam's first child. Unfortunately, she suffers a miscarriage later in the same episode. The baby was confirmed to have been a boy by Doc. Baker.
Mary later had another child, a son she and Adam decided to name Adam Kendall Jr. The baby later died in a fire at the Blind School along with Alice Garvey. The fire was caused by a lighted smoking pipe that was accidentally left in the basement by Mary's adopted brother, Albert, and his friend. After the fire was over, Mary was in shock for a good amount of time. After listening to a music box (the same type she played for her baby before he died), given to her as a gift by Albert, Mary returned to normal after some help from Doctor Baker.
Personality and Traits
As a child, Mary was usually the gentle one of the family, and was especially close to her Ma. However, as the eldest, she was also very dependable. She was willing to fight to stand up for her family if need be. An example of this is in the episode "The Bully Boys", where Mary stands up to schoolyard bully Bubba Galender when he harasses the children.
Mary was very pretty growing up, with her blue eyes and golden hair, and boys always seemed to be smitten with her, much to Laura's dismay. She rarely reciprocated their affections, as was in the case of Johnny Johnson. In a letter to his parents, Charles once wrote that "boys are already flocking around (Mary) like bees to honey."
She was also quite intelligent, and Laura once stated she could "write as good as Miss Beadle".
Mary was protective of her younger sisters, often seen taking care of baby Carrie. She was also close to Laura, worrying about her when Nellie Oleson faked friendship with Laura in the episode entitled "Talking Machine". If Laura had taken heed of Mary's concerned advice, she wouldn't have been hurt at Nellie's backstabbing.
Mary's book character was similar to the television show character in several ways. Just as in the show, Mary went blind from scarlet fever. However, she did not have to have glasses in the books. In the book, Laura took a larger role in helping her sister get the money raised so that Mary could go to the blind school than in the television show (the Ingalls family did not live in Walnut Grove at this time). Laura was Mary's eyes when they went somewhere new.
In the television show, before she met Adam Kendall, Mary was engaged to John Jr. who, when he went to college on a scholarship, met someone else and left her. She lost her sight shortly after that and went to the Blind School in Iowa where she met Adam.
Unlike the television show character, Mary Ingalls never married in real life.
Behind the Scenes
Mary Ingalls was played by Melissa Sue Anderson throughout the series. When casting, there were about 100-200 girls who auditioned for the role. Melissa Sue Anderson remarked that one day she just read a script for Michael Landon, and they also paired her with Melissa Gilbert and saw that the two worked well together like sisters as the pair would soon be playing. When Anderson first saw the ad, it read that they were looking for parts in a western television show. She had no idea what character she was going to play at this time.
In an interview with Melissa Sue Anderson, she was asked to describe Mary's character, "I think Mary was really ultimately her mother's daughter, you know she took after her mother and she wanted to be just like her and her mother at some point I believe had been a schoolteacher in her early years. And she was so much more like her, she wasn't the tom-boy that Melissa Gilbert (Laura) was, taking after Michael's (Charles) side basically as was shown in the episode where Melissa Gilbert [Laura] had convinced Michael Landon [Charles] to take her along with him in a hunting trip, and she [Mary] emulated her mother, she wanted to do well and be like her mother." Melissa Gilbert also remarked that Mary was the one everyone wanted to marry and Laura was the one everybody wanted to go fishing with such as Patrick Laborteaux [Andrew Garvey, whose mother Alice Garvey perished in a fire along with Mary's baby Adam Charles Holbrook Kendall].