She was born in an unassuming two-bedroom log cabin in the “Big Woods” of Wisconsin, about seven miles northwest of Pepin, Wisconsin and grew to become one of Wisconsin's best known writers.
On February 7, 1867, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls was born to Charles and Caroline Ingalls. She was the second of five children. Her older sister was Mary, her two younger sisters were Carrie and Grace. Her younger brother, Charles, died when he was nine months old. While still an infant, Laura's family moved to Kansas where Laura saw her first Native Americans.
A few years later, the family returned to Pepin. Laura and her older sister, Mary went to school there for the first time, not in Walnut Grove, Minnesota as she wrote in the first book about her days in Wisconsin, “Little House in the Big Woods” (1932).
In the book, Laura turns five, but in reality, she was three. Her publisher, however, felt it was unbelievable that a three-year-old would have such vivid memories, so they had her change it. To be consistent, in the subsequent “Little House on the Prairie” (1935) she set her age as six- to seven-years-old.
They lived in Wisconsin another four years before they moved to Walnut Grove, Minnesota. A failed crop sent them to Burr Oak, Iowa two years later. The family never set down roots. They returned to Walnut Grove, but two years later they were again on the move, this time to the Dakota Territory where they finally became homesteaders.
“Little House on the Prairie” was about Laura's days in Walnut Grove and was also the setting for the television series.
Laura married Almanzo Wilder when she was 18. Her second book, “Farmer Boy” (1933) was about a year of her husband's life on the farm in New York. They had a daughter, Rose, and an unnamed son, who died soon after his death.
Ironically, it was Laura's daughter, Rose, who encouraged her mother to write of her childhood. Rose was herself a successful writer in her own right and was in fact, one of the top paid female writers in America, with her fiction appearing in some of the top slick magazines of the day. In 1938, the Saturday Evening Post paid her $30,000 (that would be equivalent to $450,000 in 2010 dollars) to serialize her novel, “Free Land.”
Laura was 65 when her first book was published. She went on to publish 127 books, nine of which were part of the “Little House” series. Her books have been translated into 26 languages. She's won many honors, including having an award named after her for writers and illustrators of children's books who have made lasting contributions to children's literature given out by the American Library Association.
Nearly every place where Laura lived has become a National Historic Landmark, including where she was born in Wisconsin. The Little House Wayside is a 3-acre rest area located in Pepin County, Wisconsin complete with a recreation of the unassuming two-bedroom log cabin that became the inspiration for her first book.