Happy Birthday to Laura!

It’s Laura’s birthday.  In the Big Woods of Wisconsin, she was born 146 years ago today. I’m quite certain that she never would have believed that she would have such a following who would be celebrating, not only her birthday, but her words.

If you’re here reading this then you are more than likely a reader of the Little House books. Maybe you’ve read them once, maybe you’ve read them more than once (in many cases, waaay more than once). Perhaps you watched the tv series, which lead you to the books. Or you could be a book purist.

Whatever the reason, here you are and we’re happy that you’re celebrating with us!

And we can’t celebrate Laura’s birthday without a present! We’d love to have you share your favorite Laura-ism. What’s your favorite Laura quote, story, song, or passage from the books? Share (just once please) in the comments below and a week from today we will choose a comment and one of you will receive a pint of maple syrup from the Big Woods of Michigan.

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming in his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 13 – The Deer in the Wood

UPDATE: Sarah Sue here. I just wanted to tag in and remind people about the podcast tonight. Hope you join our Laura birthday podcast.

Posted in Cultural Impact, Little House in the Big Woods, Quotations from Laura
41 comments on “Happy Birthday to Laura!
  1. maggie says:

    I was just curious…is the picture from the LH site in Wisconsin?…or is it just a random winter picture? Pretty regardless.

  2. Cindy Wilson says:

    Every year on this date, I ask my daughter (who is named Laura Elizabeth) “Hey! Guess what today is!” and she rolls her eyes and says, “yes, Mom…I know what today is….you ask this EVERY year!”

  3. SusanHJ says:

    I’m not exactly sure of my absolute favorite, because I have so many, but the first thing that popped into my head was when I was a teenager, I read through my set every year. I didn’t know that a songbook existed, so I made up a melody to “In the Starlight.” Once I discovered the songbook, I tried to learn the original, but I’d still rather sing the melody of the song that helped me get through those awkward, sometimes awful, teenaged years.
    “In the starlight, in the starlight
    At the daylight’s dewy close,
    When the nightingale is singing
    His last love song to the rose;

    In the calm, clear light of summer,
    When the breezes softly play,
    From the glitter of our dwelling
    We will gently steal away.”

  4. Monica Armour says:

    I love the description of the surveyor’s house in BtSoSL. I always remember thinking how big it must have been. What a shock when I saw it in real life!
    I also love the part in HGY when Almanzo comes back and his present to Laura is the brooch.

  5. Kim Carroll says:

    Happy Birthday, Laura!

  6. Linda Hoy says:

    Reading about how they made candy in snow was the part that I loved best as a kid. Hope I get some maple syrup from the Big Woods so I can try it with my daughter! 🙂

  7. sandy says:

    Happy Birthday Laura

  8. I’m not entering for the maple syrup, postage to Ireland is too expensive. 🙂 I just wanted to submit my favourite Laura moment…it’s the part when she’s looking through her mother’s chest of drawers for something, when she comes across a book…she opens it and reads a section and suddenly realizes it’s a book meant for her for Christmas. She slams the book shut without finishing the sentence she’s on and tries to forget all about it. Over the period until Christmas, the last sentence keeps going through her mind. When Christmas comes and she gets the book, she’s disappointed to realize that it wasn’t that good of a poem after all….
    I don’t know why I like that part- maybe it makes her feel more like a real person?

  9. The candy in the snow was my favorite, too!

    Oh, thank you for taking me back down memory lane.

  10. Thanks to Amy who remembered that poem was Tennyson, I found the part I was looking for!
    he felt some- thing hard. She put in her hand and drew out a book.

    It was a perfectly new book, beautifully bound in green cloth with a gilded pattern pressed into it The smooth, straight, gilt edges of the pages looked like solid gold, On the cover two curving scrolls of lovely, fancy letters made the words,

    Laura was so startled and so amazed by this rich and beautiful book, hidden there among the flannels, that she almost dropped it. It fell open on her hands. In the lamplight the fresh, untouched pages lay spread, each exciting with unread words printed upon it in clear, fine type, Straight, thin red lines enclosed each oblong of printing, like the treasure it was, and outside the red lines were the pages, pure margins,

    Near the bottom of the left-hand page was a short line in larger type: THE LOTOS-EATERS.

    “Courage! ,, was the first word under that, and breath- lessly Laura read,

    “Courage!” he said, and pointed to the land,
    “This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.,
    In the afternoon they came unto a land
    In which it seemed always afternoon.
    All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
    Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
    Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
    And, like a—-
    Laura stopped, aghast. Suddenly she had realized what she was doing. Ma must have hidden this book. Laura had no right to read it. Quickly she shut her eyes, and then she shut the book. It was almost more than she could do, not to read just one word more, just to the end of that one line. But she knew that she must not yield one tiny bit of temptation.

    She put the book where it had been, between the red flannels. She put the flannels back into the drawer, shut the drawer, and opened the drawer above it. Then she did not know what to do.

    She should confess to Ma what she had done. But instantly she knew that Ma must be keeping the book hidden, for a surprise. She thought swiftly, and her heart was pounding hard, that Pa and Ma must have bought that book in Vinton, Iowa; they must be saving it for a Christmas present. A book so rich and fine, a book of poems, could only be a Christmas present. And Laura was the oldest girl at home now; it must be a Christmas present for her!

    If she confessed to Ma, she would spoil their Christ- mas pleasure, that they were looking forward to. Pa and Ma would be so disappointed.

    It seemed a long time since she had found that book, but really it had only been a moment. Ma came in hilt riedly and said, “I’ll finish in here, Laura, you go to bed now, it’s past your bedtime.”

    “Yes, Ma,” Laura said, She knew that Ma had feared she would open that lower drawer and find the book. Never before had she kept a guilty secret from Ma, but now she did not say a word.

    After school next day, she and Carrie did not take the long walk to the claim, Instead they stopped at Pa’s store building at the corner of Second Street and Main. Pa and Ma had moved into town for the winter.

    The stove and the cupboard were set up in the kitchen, Upstairs the bedsteads stood under the slanting shingle roof, the straw ticks lay plumply on them under heaped quilts and pillows, Making the beds was all that Ma had left for Laura and Carrie to do. And Laura was sure that the Christmas book, Tennyson’s Poems, was hidden in Ma’s bureau drawer. She would never look to see, of course.

    Yet every time she saw the bureau she could not help thinking,

    Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
    And, like a —-
    Like what? She would have to wait until Christmas to learn the rest of that lovely poem. “Courage! ” he said, and pointed to the land. “This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.” In the afternoon they came unto a land in which it seemed always afternoon. But it did not seem to Laura that Christmas was soon.

  11. Happy Birthday to Laura! I’ve been a Laura fan nearly my entire life! Living in Oregon, it was my life long dream to visit DeSmit and Mansfield. In March of 2011, my life-long dream came true when my husband surprised me with a trip to Mansfield. When we walked into the museum to pay for a tour of the home, I couldn’t speak because I was so overjoyed to FINALLY be there!!! The lady was very nice and she said, look to your left you’ll see Pa’s fiddle….and at that point a flood of tears came and I just couldn’t believe where I was standing…..Laura Ingalls Wilder Estate! It was an amazing day! One of my favorite passages from These Happy Golden Years…
    “Pa and Ma and Grace were ready for church when she came out of the bedroom, with Carrie following her. Pa looked from the top of Laura’s head to the bottom of the brown poplin flounce, where the soft black toes of her shoes peeped out. Then he said, “They say that fine feathers make fine birds, but I say it took a fine bird to grow such feathers.” Laura was so pleased that she could not speak. “You look very nice,” Ma praised, “but remember that pretty is as pretty does.” Yes, Ma, “Laura said.”

    She and I both were so “pleased” that we could not speak! 🙂 Happy Birthday Laura!!!!

  12. naomi says:

    I too have many favorites, of course. But one that comes to mind is this one — it’s such a clear picture of the difference in personality between Laura and Mary.
    “Mary and Laura wanted to catch one. Again and again they almost had one. The gopher would stand perfectly still until you were sure you had him this time, then just as you touched him. He wasn’t there. There was only his round hole in the ground.
    Laura ran and ran and couldn’t catch one. Mary sat perfectly still beside a hole, waiting for one to come up, and just beyond her reach gophers scampered merrily and gophers sat up and looked at her. But not one every came out of that hole.”

  13. Jen E says:

    This quote is my absolute favorite from LIW:

    ” It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. “

  14. Joan says:

    It is really hard to pick just one thing. What I really love is how descriptive her writing is. You can just picture what she is talking about. From the description of the attic in Little House in the Big Woods to the description of her new home in These Happy Golden Years Laura makes you able to be right there with her throughout her life. Happy Birthday sweet Laura. Life was difficult at times but we can tell it was a life that was full of love and adventure. Also isn’t it time for a new Read Along of one of her books. I do so enjoy those.

  15. Melissa says:

    My favorite is her engagement story from THGY. I’ve loved that scene since I read the books as a young girl. Paraphrasing…
    “Would you like an engagement ring?”
    “It would depend on who offered it to me.”
    “What if I should?”
    “Then it would depend on the ring.”

    LOVE the insight into their courtship and their playfulness. Makes me swoon every time I read it!

  16. Sommer says:

    I have been a fan of the Little House books for many years and now my children read them as well 🙂

    My favorite story….I have always loved the Christmas in The Little House on the Prairie. So little but so much!


  17. Jen says:

    As the mom of 4 (from 3 mos to 17 years) with a part-time job and school volunteering, etc., this quote, I believe it’s from “Little House in the Ozarks,” resonates greatly. “If we expect to enjoy our life we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at stated intervals, when we can get time, or when we have nothing else to do.” I take it as my mission statement.

  18. Sonya says:

    There are so many passages that jump to my mind in different situations. I just read Cry Into the Wind by Othello Bach which is her autobiography about growing up in terrible poverty. One of her biggest desires was to get a rubber baby doll for Christmas. Instead, her mother made one out of a sweet potato that only lasted to February! That made me think of Laura’s corncob doll in Little House in the Big Woods.

    “Mary was bigger than Laura, and she had a rag doll named Nettie. Laura had only a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief, but it was a good doll. It was named Susan. It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob. Sometimes Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but she only did it when Susan couldn’t see.”

  19. Tracy Moore says:

    My favorite Laura quote, which I have pinned on Pinterest-

    “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong”.

  20. Nanc says:

    So many favorites, but one that stands out is the housecleaning scene in Little Town on the Prairie. I love the image of Grace “helping” by blacking the stove (and the floor and herself!) and the way the girls work together the clean up and surprise Ma and Pa. At 14 I would have never done so well.

  21. Diane Wilde says:

    Happy Birthday Laura, remembering you today. You were born 102 years and 17 days before me. I am a February baby too. Thanks for your stories.

  22. Michelle says:

    I always liked when Laura rescued Charlotte from the puddle. She was upset about giving her away and then got to get we beloved doll back while still being “good.”

  23. Melanie Pancho says:

    Happy Birthday, Laura!

    I think my favourite moment in the Little House books is the entire last chapter of The Long Winter. The depths of their months-long deprivation always hits me hard when Laura describes how happy everyone was to have survived and to finally have groceries–and that frozen-since-December turkey!–enough to have a real Christmas feast. The last lines of the book say it all:

    “And as they sang, the fear and suffering of the long winter seemed to rise like a dark cloud and float away on the music. Spring had come. The sun was shining warm, the winds were soft, and the green grass growing.”

  24. Jennifer says:

    Dance at Grandpa’s, my favorite part was reading how Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby got ready for the dance. The buttons that looked like juicy big blackberries sticks in my head every time. Garth Williams did a great job with the pictures of them getting their hair ready, which I learned later when I was old enough to know how women did get dressed at the time.

  25. Jaime L Brooks says:

    I wanted to share my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder quote;
    Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.
    Laura Ingalls Wilder
    I grew up loving the Littfle House Books, and as I got older, I discovered that I love the real Laura more. I will some day be able to travel to the Laura sites, but two years ago I was able to see some of her manuscrips, sewing box, and her china at the U of M at Dearborn Library exhibit. It was a parcial dream come true.

  26. JF says:

    I named my daughter Laura because of Laura Ingalls Wilder–happy birthday to my favorite children’s book author.

  27. Judy Lowry says:

    I am forever grateful to Laura, for even still, she’s teaching. My 8 year old granddaughter has discovered your books and can’t get enough of them. Her parents are now Ma and Pa, she has a prairie outfit, and they’ve been baking homemade bread. If she could know, that the desire that she had – “I wanted children now to understand more about the beginnins of things, to know what is behind the things they see–what it is that made America as they know it” LIW, is being fulfilled a hundred fold. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart and oh, if we could only go back there sometimes…

  28. Tammy Grimes says:

    I gleaned much wisdom as a child from the “little house books” Her family had many trials and faced them with strength, courage and acceptance. I have noticed many times in my own trials, they had been a wonderful example. The most recent thing was when a few difficulties came and eventually worked themselves out. I can remember pa saying…..”alls well that ends well” Oh how wise that statement is…….in modern day language……”let it go”

  29. Kate says:

    I always loved when Almanzo would drive out to the school to pick her up and bring her home for the weekends. The description of their cold drives always made me shiver.

  30. leah nishiyama says:

    Happy Birthday Laura!! My favourite scene has always been since I was 10 years old the engagement ring scene. I have always wanted to see that ring and have a replica made for my engagement ring. ( didn’t happen though)

  31. mongupp says:

    I love Laura’s books and have for many years! I always loved when Laura would describe food and mealtimes, she was always so descriptive. I can almost smell and taste the food Laura describes

  32. LauriOH says:

    I love the description of the cup and the platter. I’ve heard ministers preach on it, but Laura’s words ring true for me. It’s something I have to remind myself all the time.

  33. Karen says:

    My favorite passage is the end of Big Woods, that Laura used in her post. I noticed it several years ago when I was also reading the Eckhart Tolle books and I like wow…just wow!

  34. mrswilder says:

    Hmmmm, so many to choose from…… I tend to like either Laura’s michevious antics or the more romantic parts. The part that made me laugh was when Laura wrote that song about Eliza Jane in Little Town on the Prairie;
    ‘Going to school is lots of fun,
    From laughing we have gained a ton,
    We laugh until we have a pain,
    At lazy, lousy, Lizy Jane.’

    And in These Happy Golden Years, I absolutely LOVE the engagment scene. Almanzo was so nervous and kept fumbling; isn’t he the sweetest thing? Ever since I read it for the first time, i’ve had a tiny girlish crush on him. But haven’t we all? Happy birthday Laura! <3 🙂

  35. Kimberly says:

    I’ve always loved the part in These Happy Golden Years when Laura’s getting into Almanzo’s buggy and her new hoops are a nuisance and she says,”Drat these hoops.” I know it’s silly, but I say this all the time when something doesn’t go the way it should 🙂

  36. One Moment? One?! I’ve been pondering this for a week and still can’t narrow it down :). So, true to my nature, I’ll go back to my happy weather place. Let’s call it… the tornado scene, with her description of the three funnels intermittently touching down like “cat’s paws”. Very vivid description, and I think you can really feel the intensity and fear in her words!

  37. Melanie says:

    “Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.” This is from “The Long Winter”. I think it pretty much sums up her determination and courage throughout anything in her life. Happy belated BD, Laura!

  38. Jennifer says:

    I’m a lifelong lover of everything Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I’ve reread her books so often I can almost quote them from memory. My favorite moment from the books is from These Happy Golden Years, when she and Mary, all grown up now, are walking along discussing how things used to be.
    ” ‘Time passes so quickly now,’ said Mary. ‘Do you remember when the winter was so long, it seemed that summer would never come. And then in summertime, winter was so long ago we almost forgot what it was like?’ ‘Yes, and what good times we had when we were little,’ Laura answered. ‘But maybe the times that are coming will be even better. You never know.’ “

  39. Wendy Clark says:

    I have always loved the LH books and feel like they are my friends. They have had a huge impact on my life and at age 40 I still read them and like to try to find something “new” each time.

    I love all the Christmas stories. I love the feeling you get you read of Laura seeing her new finished home the first time after their wedding. I love the way Laura and Mary grew to be friends as well as sisters. I love her description of the train ride to the Dakota prairie. I love it all!

  40. Cheri says:

    One of my favorite things about Laura was no matter how hard she tried, she would say or do something she regretted. On the first day of school, in OtBoPC she yelled out that they all sounded like a flock of prairie hens and embarrassed Mary so bad. Then in TLW again on the first day, she caught the ball thrown by Capp, and wondered if the girls would accept her.

  41. Melanie Stringer says:

    I agree with Joan…it IS time for another readalong. One of my favorite scenes is when Laura and Carrie go sliding and exploring in the moonlight on the frozen Silver Lake. As they follow the moonpath: “They swooped and almost seemed to fly. If Carrie lost her balance, Laura held her up. If Laura was unsteady, Carrie’s hand steadied her.” They are really having a blast…and they see a wolf. This little adventure always feels like the first true bonding experience they share as sisters on an equal par with each other, instead of Carrie being the much younger little sister. I remember being so surprised when I read my first biography of Laura and discovered Carrie was only 3-1/2 years younger!