Today’s Ozark History Blog was written by Kathryn Cantrell – my wife and frequent Editor.
For Laura Ingalls Wilder, her career all began with storytelling. Storytelling was a favorite pastime and great entertainment for Laura’s family while she was growing up. Laura described her father as a great storyteller, and she herself kept the tradition going when she had her daughter Rose. Rose would listen intently as Laura told of the many adventures she had as a child: tales were told of traveling in a covered wagon into Indian territory, of the hardships of living upon a homestead, but most of all of the loving and caring relationship between her and her family members. These stories would became the basis of future articles, short stories, and novels authored by Laura.
In 1894, Laura and her husband Almonzo moved to the Ozarks and purchased 40 acres with money Laura saved working as a seamstress. She named the farm, Rocky Ridge. The name was to remind them of the hard times they had faced in North Dakota. It was here, she began a sixteen year writing career working for the Missouri State Farmer, and later for the Missouri Ruralist.
Laura’s completed her autobiography, Pioneer Girl in 1930. The book was first rejected for publication but was later rewritten into stories from her childhood. This story became The Little House in the Big Woods, winner of the Newberry Award for outstanding children’s book. As the book grew in popularity, children from all over the nation began writing to her asking her for more stories. Eventually, Laura would write eight Little House books between 1931 and 1943. They were stories about their life’s struggles, and how each new experience was met with courage, self-reliance, and ingenuity. Most of all, they were stories of cheerfulness, of warmth, and of support among family, friends, and neighbors.
“It Depends on How You Look at It” appeared in 1919 and expressed Laura’s philosophy on life. It was an essay on how people are always longing for the good old days when they still had time to enjoy life. Laura reflected on how she spent her own spare time, and realized that her mother and grandmother had little time for such activities. She remembered though how they were always cheerful and working without complaint. She wrote:
It may well be that it is not our work that is so hard for us as the dread of it and our often expressed hatred of it. Perhaps it is our spirit and attitude toward life and it’s conditions that are giving us trouble, instead of the shortage of time. Surely the days and nights are as long as they ever were. Joy should be reflected in all the tasks one does.
Laura lived in Mansfield, Missouri until her death on February 7,1957. On the third weekend in September, Mansfield residents have a fall festival to commemorate her life and times. The town of Mansfield also has a elementary school and a library named in her honor and in the square downtown there is a bronze bust of Laura. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum is located about a mile east of Mansfield. The house is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is furnished just as it was when Laura lived there. The museum offers guided tours of the house for a fee, and there is a section of the museum that honors Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was also a well-known author. Many of the items mentioned in Laura’s books, like Pa’s fiddle and Ma’s sewing machine, are displayed at the museum. The museum has recently renovated the rock house that Rose had built for Laura and Almonzo. Mansfield Cemetery is the final resting place of Laura and Almonzo.