I think I posted a week or 2 ago about that I was going to write a paper on LIW for my Women's Studies course that I've been taking over the summer. Well, I finally got it back last week, and I got an A! I was happy that for once, I got to write about something fun. My professor's comments were: "I didn't know where you were going with this at first glance but it all came together nicely". I thought, since I told you that I was writing it, I would post it if anyone wants to read :)
It's long - almost 5 pages printed out - and in some instances, I left out some things that happened to pull together "the bigger story" if that makes sense, mainly b/c it wasn't supposed to exceed 4 - 5 pages. Also, I threw in the "no obey" part from "These Happy Golden Years" b/c, well, I thought it would look good for a Women's Studies class, :haha: LOL.
Let me know what you think if you want to read it :) Laura Ingalls Wilder: Early Woman Pioneer
Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author, could be considered one of the first female pioneers to give an account of her story. Her life was filled with challenges balanced by the love she felt from her family, and later she went on to write not only a great many newspaper articles and essays but also the renowned “Little House” books.
Wilder was born on February 7, 1867, in a little house made of logs in Wisconsin. Her memories begin here and are later described in her first book, Little House in the Big Woods. The country around her was recovering from The Civil War, but these events were far away from Wilder, who knew only the good times she experienced at home. There were parties and dances with her family, and trips to town to look forward to. Most of all, there was her father’s fiddle playing; Wilder loved music and as far back to her early life, it was a very big part of who she was.
Several years later, the family moved to Independence, Kansas. They traveled by covered wagon and it took an entire summer to reach their destination. As a little girl, Wilder enjoyed the free spaces and running and playing with her sisters Mary and Carrie. For Wilder’s mother Caroline, this open prairie was a lonely place; they were far away from people. When they finally settled, the entire family was taken sick with malaria. Fortunately, they were able to recover but after a summer went by, they became sick again, this time with whooping cough. Times were hard and when an opportunity came to return to Wisconsin, Wilder’s father, Charles, decided to take the family home. It was in Wisconsin that Wilder first attended school.
The winters in Wisconsin were filled with snow and the summers were dry and hot. It was hard for the family to make end’s meet and so, in 1873, they sold their land and tried to decide where to move onto next. It was during this transition period and while living with their grandparents that Wilder and her sisters developed scarlet fever. It was a dangerous disease and the adults were filled with worry. One by the one, the children recovered and in early spring of the next year, the Ingalls family moved on. Wilder would never again see that first little house that held her earliest memories, but it would be forever imprinted in her mind (Zochert).
They settled this time in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, near Plum Creek in a little house made of sod, which was partially underground. Wilder’s parents thought this was great country, though they wondered why the crop on the land they had just purchased was so thin (Zochert). But they once again enjoyed the simplicities of life and all that this new place had to offer. On the hot, summer days, Wilder swam in the creek with her parents and sisters. In the evening, they had music from Charles’ fiddle and on Sundays, they dressed in their best clothes and traveled into town for church services. Wilder and her sister Mary had spent their time traveling and first year of living in Walnut Grove learning at home, with their mother, who had previously been a schoolteacher, but in Walnut Grove they once again attended regular school.
In the summer, grasshoppers plagued the fields, destroying the crops that farmers had spent so much time planting. Because of this, Charles was forced to travel back East to find work, leaving his family behind. Caroline Ingalls, then expecting her fourth child, worked from dusk till dawn, taking over both roles of mother and father, for the months that Charles was gone. Life was never easy for pioneers, especially women, but they knew no other way and were undoubtedly much stronger than they themselves would have taken credit for.
Unable to bear another fruitless season because of the grasshoppers, the family made plans to move again, this time bringing their newborn baby boy with them. They traveled to Burr Oak, Iowa. This was perhaps one the darkest times of Wilder’s life, and she herself did not mention it in her books. The new baby was small, and often sick, as was Caroline. Before reaching Iowa, the baby died suddenly, only nine months old. They continued on because they simply had to; there was no where else for them to go. Charles and Caroline were able to find work running a hotel. Wilder and her sisters helped when they could, and once again attended school. A particularly strange event occurred when a neighbor, whose own children were grown and had moved away, asked Caroline if she could adopt Wilder because “she was such a nice girl and do just fine”. Of course, Caroline declined this offer, but it wasn’t uncommon to hear of people giving away their children during hard times such as these.
The Ingalls left Burr Oak and returned to Walnut Grove again for a short time. Wilder attended and enjoyed school once more, and things were good again, until Mary became very sick. The young girl suffered a stroke, as a result of the earlier scarlet fever. She also lost her sight. Charles told Wilder she needed to “be Mary’s eyes”, and see for the both of them now (Wilder). This is when Wilder particularly began to notice details in everything around her.
They moved one last time, finally settling in De Smet, South Dakota. It was here that Wilder first met a man by the name of Almanzo Wilder, ten years her senior. He and his brother had a nearby farm, and Wilder saw him working in his fields. As a young woman, she quickly made new friends and enjoyed spending time with them as much as she enjoyed learning. She read her lessons aloud to her sister Mary, since she could no longer attend school. Charles and Caroline planned to send Mary to a school for the blind when they could afford it; Wilder worked all summer as a seamstress to contribute. She was surprised when presented with the opportunity to travel to another town and be a teacher; she had been planning to teach someday, but she was only fifteen. She was scared to death and having to live away from her family only proved worse. For several long months, Wilder lived and taught in this strange new town. The only thing she had to look forward to was Almanzo coming to bring her home every weekend.
They continued seeing each other even when Wilder returned home; every Sunday, they would take rides together in Almanzo’s buggy. It wasn’t long before Almanzo asked her to marry him. Wilder agreed on one condition: that she would not have to say the word “obey”, which was then part of a woman’s marriage vows, because, as Wilder put it, she “could never obey anyone who went against her better judgment” (Wilder).
Wilder gave birth to a baby girl, which she named Rose, two winters later. They were happy in their life together, but like Wilder’s early life (and that of many pioneers), they were plagued with hard times; they had hardly any money, difficulty with their crops, and both got sick with diphtheria. Almanzo suffered a stroke at the age of thirty, from which he would never fully recover. Wilder herself learned how to use all the farm machinery, being a great help to husband. As if things weren’t bad enough, their house caught fire and burned to the ground. They decided to move themselves, finally settling in Mansfield, Missouri.
During this trip, Wilder had kept a diary of the places she saw and people she met. After this, she saved every scrap of paper that she wrote on, writing down her thoughts on people, her family, and places she had known. She spent every second she could taking in the beauty of everything around her. She viewed the world around her as constantly changing, and she wanted to remember every thing about it. Many of her writings were published in local newspapers and even some national magazines. It wasn’t until she was in her sixties that she wrote down the stories of her youth, at the encouragement of her daughter Rose, who had grown up hearing the stories.
Wilder became a legendary author; the books in which she wrote her fondest memories were, and still are to this day, enjoyed by children and adults alike. The challenges she faced and love she felt from her family is something many people can relate to, and many people long for. She wrote of the simplicity of life, in these books and also in her earlier essays. Not only is she remembered, but cherished. “The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies” (Wilder).