Laura Ingalls Wilder's 151st Birthday

Laura Ingalls Wilder was an American writer known for the Little House on the Prairie series of children's books released from 1932 to 1943 which were based on her original "Pioneer Girl" manuscript.

Visit pioneergirlproject.org to find out more about Laura Ingalls Wilder on the day of her birth.

From the Pioneer Girl Project:

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Wilder!

Where does a little girl on the American frontier fit into our modern celebrations? For starters, it is interesting to note that Wilder’s childhood birthdays could not have included the fiddle rendition of “Happy Birthday." In fact, in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, Wilder’s birthday episodes are minimal. During the Ingalls family’s time in Wisconsin, Wilder remembered: “After awhile I had a birthday. I didn’t know anything about it until when I got up in the morning, Pa played spank me, . . . one for each year. Then he gave me a little wooden man he had whittled out of a stick. Ma and Mary gave me a rag doll that Ma had made and Mary helped dress. And I was a great girl 4 years old!” (p. 41).2

Not until Wilder moved to De Smet did she experience her first birthday party, given for a boy named Ben Woodworth, and in true introvert fashion, she “felt very awkward.” She did have a good time, though, recalling: “The long dining table was set and ready when we got there. It was beautiful with its silver and china its beautiful linen tablecloth and napkins. At each place, on a pretty little plate was an orange standing on end with the peel sliced in strips half way down and curled back making the orange look like a golden flower. I thought them the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, even prittier than the birthday cake in the center of the table” (p. 251). Oranges were a luxury on the frontier, as was the oyster soup that the Woodworths served along with a “generous piece” of cake. Afterwards, the young people played games. “We went home early well pleased with the evening” (p. 252), Wilder remembered.

Generally, Wilder’s youth occurred before birthday celebrations became popular in the United States. As time went on, annual birthday parties became a normal part of people’s lives. Wilder even dressed up to commemorate her eighty-fourth birthday at the library in Mansfield, Missouri, in 1951.

1. Todd Van Lulling, “This Is Why You Get To Celebrate Your Birthday Every Year,” huffingtonpost.com.