A Love Letter to Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Katy on May 25, 2009 · 14 comments


Dearest Laura,

I know it’s been a few years since we were together last, but I have one thought I need to share with you:

I adore you, heart and soul!

From your early childhood in The Big Woods, to your First Four Years of marriage with Almanzo, I was there with you. Absorbing every word, every nuance, every lesson. When your family almost didn’t survive The Long Winter, I bundled up under the covers and ate warm buttered toast while absorbing every crumb.

When the Little House on the Prairie television show began in the 1970’s, I thought it was blasphemy. How could they sugar coat your childhood? I had seen the lean and hungry looking photos of you and your family, and they looked nothing like the apple cheeked actors cast for the show! Did they not look at Garth Williams’ beautiful illustrations that properly conveyed the hollow cheeks of your Pa?

When I took a From the Saloon to the Salon, Women’s Western Writing course in college, I was drawn to research your writing from an adult perspective. I read that your books were heavily edited by your daughter Rose, and that much of the message of the series was that of self-reliance. An elaborate argument against Roosevelt’s New Deal.


How could that be? My beloved stories had a political undertone?

I chose not to read them in that manner.

Laura, I give your books a re-read every five years or so. And I feel special, pioneer-y, and lucky.

And if you’re looking for me, I’ll be snuggled under a quilt, reading The Long Winter and eating slice-after-slice of warm buttered toast.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Katharine May 26, 2009 at 7:14 am

Long time reader, first time commenter. I’m working my way to the realization that the compact is for me – i’m just not quite there yet.

I could not agree with all of this post more. I too, love and reread all Laura’s books every few years (especially when I’m sick). I too, loathed and hated the LHotP tv show – they wore SHOOOOEEES! In the summer! They had a BOY – that undermined the whole series – one major theme in the books is “laura as son stand-in for her father” and how life was that much harder for them because they didn’t have a boy.

I was in one of my fourth year lit classes once and someone made some comment about a book we were studying showing the real West, “not like those Little House books” and I nearly went apoplectic. I ended up ranting about the depravation and resilience illustrated in the books but not in the tv show (I have so much of the books memorized that my rant included several quotes). It wasn’t until I was done and everyone laughed that I realized that I might have gone over the top.


Angela May 26, 2009 at 8:55 am

Incredible- our frugal, non-consumer lifestyle all goes back to Little House on the Prairie! It makes a lot of sense to me, since I learned so many of my childhood lessons from books. These will definitely be on the list for my niece in a couple of years. Interesting bit about it being an argument against the New Deal. I always think of self-reliance as being outside politics.

Thanks Katy- I love the “love letter” series.
My summer reading has got to include a reread of Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Sandy May 26, 2009 at 9:43 am

Ohh, The Big Woods…how I remember The Big Woods. I also remember the first time I ate real maple syrup at a cabane a sucre in Quebec. Up until that point, my only reference for the process of making the syrup came from this very book… very sweet nostalgia, indeed.


Kris-ND May 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Ahhh, I also love Little House. One of my most prized possessions, is my boxed set of the little house books, that my grandparents bought me when I was 8 or 9. They are falling apart from being read so often, and I do mean falling apart..lol but I will never hide them away. They have a prominent spot on one of my bookshelves and every once in a while, I pull one out and re-charge my batteries.


sandy May 26, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I haven’t read any of the Little House books, but I did read a fascinating biography of Laura. I can just picture her and her father gnawing on turnips on the prairie.


Jennifer May 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Wow! What a coincedence! I am reading the long winter right now too! Just bought them at a used book store going out of business :(.


Heidi May 27, 2009 at 2:41 am

This was my absolute favorite book series as a child. My dad bought the set for me when I was about 10. I had a doll that I named Charlotte. Remember when they made maple sugar squiggles in the snow? As an adult, I think to myself, “what would Ma do?” in my daily activities.


Kristin May 27, 2009 at 4:11 am

I thought I was the only one who re-read The Long Winter each winter! Nice to find kindred spirits. I remember my 2nd grade teacher reading Little House in the Big Woods, then Little House on the Prairie out loud to our class. About 20 years ago I found a boxed set of the 9 books at a garage sale and snatched it up for mere dollars. One of my best finds! I live in New York State and once visited Malone, NY where Farmer Boy grew up (Almanzo Wilder)…the house still stands and they re-built the barn also…all open for tours and a must-see for Ingalls Wilder fans.

Another set of children’s books that I continue to enjoy in adulthood is Maud Hart Lovelace, her Betsy-Tacy series…it is historical fiction, very much based on the author’s life but the names have been changed. She grew up in Mankato, MN then lived in Minneapolis and later NYC and Long Island, NY. The books start with Betsy at age 5, and end after her marriage and first year of married life. Not only are they a wonderful read in themselves, but Maud’s life has some interesting parallels with Laura’s which I discovered after reading biographies of both authors.


Patricia May 27, 2009 at 5:11 am

I absolutely love the Little House books- I read them over and over as a child, but somehow my original books were lost to time. Just last Friday I saw on Craig’s List a complete set of hardcover Little House books with the hardcover collector’s edition for $20. I immediately said I’d take it and when I got them, I had to wait til she left to start weeping. They are in absolutely mint condition as if they’d never been read. Now that they live at my house, in my book case, they’ll be read and re-read over and over again and will be much loved!


Sandra May 27, 2009 at 6:00 am

I, too, loved these as a child, and my boys and I are on the last chapter of the Big Woods 0 our first family foray into the books.

As a young, new, stay-at-home mother, I lived within walking distance of three grocery stores – but we rarely had any money at all left over between pay periods. Many a time I stood in my kitchen, short on some ingredient or in “need” of some tool, and think, “What would Ma Ingalls do?” Now, we are down to one vehicle and do not live within walking distance of shopping, so having a little discretionary money makes no differences. The lessons I learned from Ma are serving our family well.


Jennifer May 27, 2009 at 10:03 am

Have you guys seen the cookbook? I always loved to read the first and second book because of the descriptions of the delicious (!) but simple food.


Heather May 27, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Sheer genius, those books. Love ’em!


Tracy Balazy June 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm

They were fantastic! Laura was born 100 years before I was, 1867, and I felt kinship with her. I had the set in softcover, and gave them away at some point. If I run across them at one of the many garage sales I frequent …


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