1867 - 1957
LAURA INGALLS was born February 7, 1867, near Pepin, Wisconsin, to Charles and Caroline Lake Quiner Ingalls. In the first years of Laura's life, the family moved from Wisconsin to Missouri and from there to Kansas—richly textured episodes that Laura would later fictionalize in Little House on the Prairie. In 1871, when she was just four, the entire family nearly died of diphtheria and returned to their little house in the big woods of Wisconsin. In three years, however, their struggle to make a living compelled them to move again, this time to Minnesota.
The family's life continued to be difficult throughout the years they lived in Minnesota. After Charles built a house and a school, the family lost two crops to plagues of grasshoppers in successive years. In order to survive, Charles had to find work in the East for a time, and later the whole family had to spend several months in Iowa running a hotel with another poverty-stricken family. These years also saw the birth and death of Laura's brother, Charles Frederick, and of her sister Grace. In 1879 Laura's older sister, Mary, contracted scarlet fever and suffered a stroke that left her blind. When Charles was offered work building the railroad in the Dakota Territory, he quickly accepted so that he could send Mary to a college for the blind. In 1880 the whole family moved to De Smet.
After earning her teaching certificate and surviving the long winter of blizzards with all the other settlers, Laura boarded with a family outside De Smet and started to earn money teaching school. Her only pleasure during this time was her weekly ride with Almanzo Wilder back into De Smet over the weekends. In 1884 she and Almanzo were engaged, and the following year they married and settled on Almanzo's claim.
The first 10 years of the Wilders' life together were riddled with disaster. Their crops repeatedly failed; they were in debt; and two years after their daughter, Rose, was born ( 1886), Almanzo and Laura contracted a nearly fatal case of diphtheria. Almanzo forced himself to work his land, despite his lingering illness, but the strain proved too great and caused him to suffer a stroke that left him partially paralyzed in his arms and legs for the rest of his life. A year after they had both recovered, Laura gave birth to a son who died within 12 days. Shortly thereafter their house burned to the ground, and their crops failed once again.