Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 148th birthday. Many of my Little-House-loving friends are celebrating this milestone in one way or another–re-reading her books, watching the television adaptation, donning sunbonnets (yes, even in the dead of winter when it’s 20 degrees and snowing), or enjoying a slice of birthday cake and a cup of tea in her honor.
Me, I’m observing her birthday by jotting down a few thoughts I had while browsing the various Facebook pages, blogs, and other websites dedicated to one of America’s most famous and most well-loved pioneer women.
I’m fascinated by readers’ fascination with Laura’s collected memories of her simple life. I’m sure that if she were alive today, she too would be fascinated and perhaps perplexed by the popularity of her stories. Could she have known as she penned those stories decades ago that they would be so loved by generations of children and adults? Did she have any idea how much people would enjoy reading her recollections of simple tasks such as cutting and stacking the hay, teaching a calf to drink, or butchering a pig? Did she ever think people would enjoy reading about her town job of piecing and hand-stitching shirts? Did she ever dream that her home would become a museum, or that conferences would be held to discuss her writing and her life?
From a writer’s perspective, the popularity of Laura’s works boggles my mind, not because her writing isn’t good, but because I highly doubt she ever intended it to be so far-reaching. I’m certain that her main goal in writing was to preserve her memories of her family’s move West, as well as her way of life, for her descendants. There may have been the hope of gaining some income from the books, but it was not her ambition to achieve the amount of fame that she did both during her lifetime and since her passing. She just told her story, and the rest was history.