Ever since I was little this woman has been my heroine, and today would have been her 147th birthday. She was born in 1867 in Wisconsin, and was one of the early American pioneers.
From a young age Laura was expected to help out in any way she could, be that milking, cleaning, cooking or making haystacks. She had the most difficult life, and yet never once complained, her life was all about dealing with what they had.
At age twelve her elder sister, Mary, went blind, and her father went away to work. I quote from her books: Now she was alone; she must take care of herself. When you must do that, then you do it”. The winter she was fourteen, the entire little town she lived in (De Smet, South Dakota) was snowed in, and no food or trains could get through for months, leaving the family nearly starving. This impacted on her height, meaning as an adult, she was only 4’11”.
Aged only fifteen, Laura left home and became a schoolteacher twelve miles from her home in order to support her family, earning twenty dollars a month. She hated it, but felt the need to pay her family back for bringing her up. Her future husband, Almanzo Wilder, ten years her senior, took it upon himself to bring her home on Friday nights so she could spend the weekend with her family. She continued to work, dipping in and out of school herself and keeping none of her wages in order to allow Mary to stay at a college for the blind in Iowa. As well as this, in her late teens, in between teaching, and sometimes on Saturdays whilst teaching, Laura worked as a dressmaker, often eleven hour days for as little as 25 cents a day. She worked extremely hard, and was also hugely self-motivated, constantly worried that she wouldn’t pass Teaching Examinations and that Mary would have to leave College because there was no money. She never graduated.
She got married at eighteen, and had her daughter at nineteen, and overcame diphtheria, drought, debt and the death of her baby son. The little family later moved to Missouri where she and Almanzo worked hard (she as a seamstress, he as a labourer) to eventually buy their own land, and run a successful farm. Laura was recognised as a minor expert in poultry farming and rural living, and was respected in the area.
She later held a collumn in the Missouri Ruralist, and still later became an accomplished writer, publishing the ‘Little House’ books that made me love her.
She was a brave, and determined woman who never complained at what her life gave her. Grateful for everything, she should be a lesson to us all.