Mary's Birthday

Today is the 145th anniversary of the birth of Mary Amelia Ingalls. It’s also the 174th birthday of her father, Charles Ingalls (Pa), but as nobody threw him a party, let’s just talk about Mary.

Despite frigid temperatures and snowy roads, the turnout to Mary’s birthday party hosted by the American Printing House for the Blind Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, was tremendous. More than 150 guests sang happy birthday to Mary and had cake (from a 19th century recipe!) and lemonade in her honor — and over 500 people had to be turned away due to lack of space!! Wow!!

The event launched a new gallery to be on permanent display in the museum — a display commemorating the life of Mary Ingalls. After all, when you stop to think about it, isn’t it pretty amazing that the blind child of an impoverished 19th century family obtained a college education? What an accomplishment — and unlike other “Little House” displays that revolve primarily around Laura and her books, with brief mentions of “what happened next” to the other girls in the family, this display highlights Mary’s life, her education, her accomplishments.

The party itself held fun for guests of all ages. To kick things off, an audio presentation (so blind guests can equally participate with sighted!) of Mary’s life was aired. I was impressed at how beautifully it encapsulated the details of Mary’s life, and have to say this may be the most accurate “Little House” presentation I have ever heard.

The presentation was followed by fiddle music and a singalong of some of the songs from the “Little House” books, readings of poetry written by Mary, and crafts for the kids — beadwork and button strings!

The rest of the museum was also open for viewing, featuring plenty of tactile stimulation along with information on the history of education of the blind, and other famous blind individuals, such as Helen Keller. (I prepared my own little Mary-lover for the big event by watching Melissa Gilbert (had to have another “Little House” tie-in!) in “The Miracle Worker” the night before.)

She especially enjoyed the Braille writer, and spent much time learning to type her name, her alphabet, and other messages in Braille.

All in all, it was a great day — topped off by the party favors sent home with each guest:  a little heart-shaped cake wrapped in tissue paper, reminiscent of the ones Laura and Mary received in their Christmas stockings in Indian Territory.

If you’re ever in the Louisville area, I highly recommend a visit to the museum — this new exhibit is a fabulous addition to Laura’s (and Mary’s) legacy! Happy birthday, Mary! (And happy birthday, Pa!)

Posted in Events, Laura's Legacy, Mary Ingalls, People Tagged with: ,
11 comments on “Mary's Birthday
  1. Judy says:

    Thanks Rebecca,
    I do get to Louisville KY about once a year, and will put this on my list of “must sees”.

  2. Julia Frey says:

    Wonderful! I’m bookmarking this all so if/when I get to Louisville, I’ll check it out!

  3. Lauri says:

    It was a wonderful event, and I hope to go back some time to see the factory. It was interesting to consider a whole industry that I never thought about existing. The audio presentation was very accurate. The fiddle player great, as was the readings of Mary’s poetry. I especially enjoyed the poem about her father’s violin, and the one read by our own blogger. The focus on Mary, rather than Laura, was refreshing. I think we’ve all read that Laura’s descriptions were encouraged by being Mary’s eyes. This presentation expressed what a gift it was from Mary to Laura. I am so glad we went. We came even though we were on the waiting list, we were shocked to hear that so many were turned away. Note: next year – make reservations early!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I have a vague memory of reading about Mary’s writing in a book somewhere, but don’t recall where it was. Do you know if any of it is published on the web?

  5. The poems were published in A Little House Reader, edited by William Anderson.

  6. John A. Bass, LIW/RWL Scholar says:

    I am so very glad to be able to ADD this place, to the “Little House sites”, pertaining to MARY’s life! Due to the weather, I wasn’t able to attend this, but will get by there this summer on the way up or down, which ever comes first.
    On the other hand, I am a bit SURPRIZED that Mary’s materials were ABLE to be used to be placed on permanate display, with out such a fuss! Wow! Whose strings were/wern’t pulled?! lol

  7. John A. Bass, LIW/RWL Scholar says:

    Everyone interested…please also note that you may visit Mary’s actual school in Vinton, Iowa as well. In 2003, I presented a plaque (small historical marker) commemorating the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School as a “Little House” site. This plaque hangs in the foyer as you walk into the main entrance.

    • Laura Whitaker says:

      John, anywhere we can get a list of place that you have been able to place plaques related to LIW and related items?

  8. John A. Bass, LIW/RWL Scholar says:

    Yes, Laura! I can send you a listing of ALL the Little House sites, including ALL the sites I formed since Ingalls-Wilder-Lane Historic Alliance was founded in 1992. This can be mailed or e-mailed to you. It is called the “historic alliance” brochure. My series of books, that I have been constructing for the last 15+ years, are listed in the “book series” brochure.
    I will also be present at the 2010 LAURAPALOOZA conference in Mankato, Minnesota, with a table display of ALL the sites and their historical markers! That weekend, I will be promoting to get a few NEW markers at the BIRTHPLACES OF CARRIE (Kansas) and GRACE (Iowa) and PA (New York). My actual plans are to have both sets of twins from the tv series to do a special presentation when the new historical markers are placed! Now for the special presentation for PA’S Birthplace historical marker…I am thinking…STEVE BLANCHARD, since Michael Landon died in 1991. Steve Blanchard is a “hands-on” and dedicated to the commemoration of the real PA, which he has interest, and has visited most of the Little House sites. I have my work cut out for me, don’t I?!

  9. Lauren says:

    What were some of Mary’s accomplishments?

  10. Lauren says:

    What were some of Mary’s accomplishments that you saw at her birthday celebration?