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!)