Little House on the Prairie Historical Context 📖

The television show ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has been a beloved classic for generations. However, many people don’t realize that the show was based on real events and characters. 

Little House on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is best known for her semi-autobiographical Little House” series of books which were based on her experiences growing up on the American frontier.  The family’s experiences are an accurate representation of what life was like for settlers in the West during this period. Although the books are fictionalized, they do include factual details such as Wilder’s own birthday and the location of her family’s home in Kansas.

Publication Information 

Little House on the Prairie‘ book series was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published between 1932 and 1943. The series was based on Wilder’s childhood spent on the prairie, and each book followed a different time period in the Ingalls family’s life. 

The first book of the series, ‘Little House in the Big Woods,’ was published in 1932 when Wilder was 65 years old. The second book was published the following year, in 1933. The third book, ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ was published in 1935 when Wilder was 68 years old.

The “Little House” books gained critical acclaim and became a beloved series among readers. They were praised for their detailed and vivid descriptions of daily life on the prairie and for being a great source of entertainment for all ages. Additionally, the books provided a unique insight into American history, with Wilder drawing from her own experiences to tell the story of how life was lived back then. 

The success of the “Little House books was due in part to their accurate depiction of the struggles faced by settlers during this era of American history. In the 1930s, there was an increasing interest in the stories and culture of those who had come before, and this is reflected in Wilder’s work. As a result, she helped to bring history alive for generations of readers and to create an appreciation for those who had experienced life on the prairie.

Literary Context

The story of ‘Little House on the Prairie was published in 1935 and is one of the most popular and beloved children’s books of all time. At the same time, a number of other novels and works of literature were being published that shared similar themes and styles. 

Another novel connected to Wilder’s works is Rose Wilder’s ‘Lane’s Free Land (1984). This novel also draws from historical themes and follows a family as they move from Missouri to a homestead in the Dakota territory. Although it is not officially part of the Little House series, it is often referred to as the “missing book” because of its similarities in style and setting. 

Overall, there were a number of books published during this era that share themes, settings, and styles with ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ These stories help to create a fuller picture of life in the late 19th century and provide interesting insight into United States history.

The Ingalls Family

Charles, or Pa, was a real person. He was born in 1836 in New York and was of English and Dutch descent. He married Caroline Quiner in 1860, and their first child, Mary, was born in 1865. Laura, the second child, was born two years later in 1867, followed by Carrie in 1870 and Grace in 1877. The family is at the heart of the novels, and readers go along with them as they age and learn more about what it takes to survive. 

Contemporary History

Life in the late 1800s and early 1900s was drastically different than it is today. American pioneers faced challenges and hardships such as crop failures, disease, and long distances between settlements. While the Ingalls family encountered some of these issues in ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ many American pioneers faced more difficult challenges. 

The United States had a large population of Native Americans who were facing displacement from their ancestral lands. With the increasing settlement of the West by non-Native Americans, Native Americans were often forced off their land, subjected to poor treatment, and moved to reservations. During this time, much of the West was unsettled, with few roads and transportation options. This made it difficult for people to travel and make a living. 

In addition to facing economic hardship, many American pioneers faced racial and gender discrimination. Women were expected to stay at home and focus on taking care of children, while men worked outside the home. 

For African Americans, there were even greater limitations due to racial discrimination and a lack of civil rights. Many African Americans faced oppressive laws which denied them the right to vote, access to public facilities, and equal protection under the law. 

While life was difficult for many American pioneers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was not without hope. People still found ways to survive and thrive, even in difficult circumstances. The Ingalls family’s experience serves as an example of this resilience, as they persevered through various trials to establish a life in the prairie.


Is Little House on the Prairie a true story? 

Yes, the ‘Little House on the Prairie‘ books were based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood experiences growing up in the American Midwest during the late 1800s.

What happened to the Ingalls family?

After living in Kansas for a few years, the Ingalls family moved back to Wisconsin, where they settled in Walnut Grove. In 1879, Pa Ingalls decided to move the family once again. By the late 1880s, Ma and Pa Ingalls had sold the land and moved to Missouri. The family remained in contact with each other until Charles Ingalls passed away in 1902.

Was Laura Ingalls Wilder a real person? 

Yes, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person. She was born on February 7, 1867, in Pepin County, Wisconsin, to Caroline and Charles Ingalls. She lived in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri before settling in Mansfield, Missouri, in 1894 with her husband Almanzo Wilder and their daughter Rose.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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