Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nellie Oleson, and the cult of ‘Little House On The Prairie’

The World

Eighty years ago this year, Laura Ingalls Wilder penned the first draft of what would eventually become her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods.” The semi-autobiographical young adult novel followed Wilder’s adventures with her sisters and parents in the Midwest during the late 1800s, and was soon followed by several more books — all of which make up the wildly popular “Little House” series. Since their original publication, none of the books have ever gone out of print.

But the popularity of Laura Ingalls Wilder goes well beyond her books. Laura Ingalls Wilder museums have been erected in many of the towns where Wilder once lived; there’s the musical that debuted last year, based on the books; this week begins the first ever “Laurapalooza Conference” in Mankato, Minnesota … and of course, there’s that iconic television series that ran from 1974 to 1984 and has run continually in syndication around the world ever since.

What is it about “Little House on the Prairie” that we love, and why does it seem to be more popular than ever?

Helping us grapple with these questions is a very special guest: Alison Arngrim, who played villain Nellie Oleson on the TV series. She’s also the author of a new book, “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch.”

Our friend Patrik Henry Bass, senior editor for Essence magazine, also weighs in — on Wilder’s influence, and why we continue to love “Little House” all these years later.

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