Little Houses and American Girls at the Threshold

I was an adult when I discovered the Little House books. My mom watched the Little House on the Prairie TV series when I was a girl, but I never knew there were books behind the TV shows and that they were based on true stories about the life and family of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In my twenties, I briefly encountered Little House in the Big Woods at the public library. I tried to read it, but I was a newly converted vegetarian so the long passages in the first chapter that go into great detail about Pa Ingalls smoking meat really turned me off. Then comes the part describing how Laura and Mary were thrilled to play ball with a pig’s bladder. I could stomach no more. I returned the book without getting through chapter one.

About 15 years later, when Sophie was 3 and started in the kindergarten program at the Waldorf School of Atlanta, one of her teachers listed The Little Houses books on the Kindergarten Reading List. I would have done almost anything the teacher suggested, so enthralled was I with our new-found Waldorf school, so I gave Laura’s story another try. Thank Heavens I did, for I found that my soul was ready to receive her beautiful tales and lessons. Laura and her family have been my escorts and teachers through the last ten years of raising my girls. I cannot count how many nights it was a Little House chapter that we read aloud as bedtime story.

I fell in love with the simple goodness and truth of the stories. I found that I longed to read the stories again and again (even when my girls were ready to move on). Laura’s deep love of family and God and Earth are profound. Pa’s strength and gentleness and humor are nourishing to my soul. Ma’s sense of rhythm, her pride in properness and her ingenuity are traits seek to cultivate in my own life. Almanzo’s character and work ethic are awe-inspring and the love and respect with which Laura and Manly build their marriage is simply beautiful.

Well it turns out that a lot of people feel as excited about Laura Ingalls Wilder as I do, and luckily many of them have been working for years to preserve and celebrate her memories, heritage and homesites. Laura lived in several states as her family pioneered across America. Being a big believer in going to visit holy sites, I started thinking about how I should go and see where the places that Laura writes about in her books. I got a copy of The Little House Guidebook by William Anderson and started thinking about how and when to go. I have thought about it for two years and finally decided that this is the summer. Pippi is 8 and Sophie is 12. Pippi turns 9 in September and likely The Nine Year Change will start. Sophie will be 13 in November and that means Adolescence in earnest. Who know what next summer will look like and if they would even want to go with me next year? We better go now while they are still interested enough to ride around with their mom for 2 weeks in the summer and visit museums and historical sites and read Little House stories along the way. My girls are on the threshold of growing up, so who better to offer them as an example of how to be a strong, smart, kind, loving, hard working, tender hearted, family loving woman than Laura Ingalls Wilder?

We are including some other historical women we admire:

Sophie loves Annie Oakley & wrote a biographical report about her for school. When we found out that Annie was born in Greenville, Ohio near where Grammy lives, we decided to include her on the tour.

We love the Betsy-Tacy books and it turns out that Maud Hart Lovelace‘s house isn’t far from one of the Laura sites!

Helen Keller’s birthplace is on the tour, too!

Come on tour with us!