The Myths of Mary Ingalls

Last time, I rocked some of your worlds by debunking the Little House TV show myths about the Ingalls family’s adoption of Albert and the Cooper siblings.

This time, I’m going to take care of some myths that the TV show spread about the young adult life of Mary Ingalls.


A photo of Mary Ingalls as a young adult.

#3 Adam Kendall

According to the TV show, Mary goes blind at the age of fifteen and attends a school for the blind in Iowa. Although this much is true about the historical Mary, the accuracy ends there. In the show, Mary eventually falls in love with her teacher at the blind school, Adam Kendall, and they marry when she is sixteen. In real life, however, Mary never fell in love with her teacher (as far as we know) and she never married. It goes without saying, but she also never moved to New York with her lawyer husband. She actually attended the school for the blind in Vinton, Iowa, for seven years between 1881 and 1889. After graduation, she returned to her parents’ home in De Smet, South Dakota, where she lived almost the entire rest of her life.

#4 The Walnut Grove School for the Blind

With all that being said, it’s important to emphasize that the historical Mary never actually helped found or teach in a school for the blind in Winoka or Walnut Grove. Thanks to her seven years of schooling in Vinton, however, Mary did become a very accomplished and educated young woman. The school for the blind allowed Mary to graduate with skills in needlework and beadwork and in playing the organ, to name a few. She could also read braille and raised type with her fingers.

#5 Baby Kendall

In the TV show, Mary becomes pregnant at least twice. The first time, she miscarries her baby boy. The second child is also a baby boy that they name “Adam Charles Holbrook Kendall.” Sadly, this baby dies in a fire that burns down the blind school in Walnut Grove. Because she never married and never helped found a school for the blind in Walnut Grove, Mary never experienced these tragedies. However, she also never experienced the joys of motherhood, even though she would have been able to spend time with Laura and Almanzo’s daughter when Rose was only a young child in De Smet.


12 comments on “The Myths of Mary Ingalls

  1. That’s why I didn’t watch the tv series! I couldn’t stand how far off they wandered down the path of artistic license and Nielson ratings *chuckle*

    • Patricia Burdette says:

      I agree, Glenda! The truth was so much more interesting, and the TV show catered too much to modern situations and opinions that I felt the Ingalls and Wilder families would have found completely alien!

  2. Tammy says:

    Thank you for sharing. I know that there are people who live and breathe the t.v. version of the Life of the Ingalls. I appreciate the real stories.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Very true.

  4. Joan says:

    I had read this somewhere else. the stories were fabricated for the series.

  5. Marion says:

    Michael Landon liked to fantasize. He should have stuck to the true story.

    • Tammy says:

      I don’t think ratings would have been that good. If you think about it, every episode had a theme. The actual story may have been mundane. Writers elaborate often to fill in dead periods.

  6. Paul says:

    The TV shows are based on the truth, I’m sure that the things that were added to he true story made it much more successful and interesting to see. No harm done, anyone who wants to know the ‘True’ facts about any of the characters can simply do some research. That’s Entertainment

  7. Pat Barr says:

    Mary Ingalls became visually impaired at the age of 14. She attended the Iowa College for the Blind from age 16 through age 24. Mary was admitted to the school on November 23, 1881. She graduated from the Iowa College for the Blind on June 12, 1889.

  8. Jane says:

    I hated that show the one or two times I saw it for the dreadful fictionalization of a really interesting family history.

  9. Linda Lane says:

    Mary did teach Sunday School

  10. Gina says:

    New York Point was taught at the time Mary Ingalls attended.

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