De Smet Birthdays

To follow up on our Little House birthday-themed blog posts, written in celebration of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday this year, we’ve spent a couple blog posts talking about the birthdays that don’t appear in any of Laura’s literature. Since we know the time of year of Laura’s birthday, however, we can easily locate the chapters that discuss the time of year around her birthday. Laura’s birthday is on February 7th, so it usually comes right after the chapters about Christmas.

In the last two posts, we talked about Laura’s birthdays in Indian Territory and in the surveyors’ house. This time, we are going to look at the rest of her birthdays in The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie.

One of Many Winter Days

In The Long Winter, the days and weeks and months all seem to blend together. However, we do know that the events of the chapter, the “The Hard Winter” occur on January first and that “The Wheat in the Wall” happens sometime in the middle of February. With those dates as guides, we can deduce that the chapter “Cold and Dark” takes place sometime around Laura’s birthday. This chapter describes how Laura spends her winter nights struggling to sleep because of the sounds of the blizzard. During the daytime, she twists hay for fuel and finds time to study. To liven up the days, Ma and the girls recite speeches and poetry and Pa reads out-loud from his big green book. This is the chapter when Pa can’t play the fiddle because his fingers are too stiff from cold.

Both this chapter and Pioneer Girl also describe how, around this same time, the snow drifts got so high that it completely covered the stable and Pa had to dig a tunnel to get from the back door of their house to the stable. Laura also describes Pa and the Wilder boys’ bravery as they were some of the only townsfolk daring enough to go out of town and bring back more hay to burn for fuel.

Fun Times with Friends


Ida Brown, one of Laura’s close friends who also attended Ben Woodworth’s birthday party.

Laura’s birthday in Little Town on the Prairie would have arrived sometime during the chapter “The Madcap Days.” This chapter describes the time Laura would spend with her friends in the wintry weather, having snowball fights and riding on sleds pulled by the boys. Laura writes in this book that “Laura was having such a good time that she almost forgot about improving her opportunity in school” (Little Town on the Prairie 252). Laura describes many of the same excursions in Pioneer Girl on pages 249-251.

Neither Little Town nor Pioneer Girl make any mention of Laura’s birthday. However, according to both accounts, it just so happens that Laura does attend a birthday party for her friend Ben Woodworth right around the time of her own birthday. The birthday party is on January 28th, about a week and a half before her own birthday. At first, everyone is super awkward at the party because no one among the friends knows how to behave in the formal atmosphere of Mrs. Woodworth’s fancy house. Once everyone loosens up, however, they have a delightful time. Wilder writes how the young adults eat oyster soup for dinner with oranges and a white-frosted birthday cake for dessert, which were great treats to Laura and her friends. Then she and her friends stay out till ten that night, playing games and testing out a little brass machine that makes electricity. Sounds like an electrifying celebration, does it not?


7 comments on “De Smet Birthdays

  1. Kimberly Johnson says:

    I remember that at Ben Woodward’s party, too, there was an orange for each guest. It was peeled halfway down and open to look like a flower. They ate them with the cake. When Laura went home and her mother asked how she had enjoyed the party, her response was, “Oh Ma! We each had our own orange!” Having lived in South Dakota and then in Germany where oranges were quite a treat, I understood her excitement.

  2. We know from Pioneer Girl that during TLW the Ingalls weren’t living alone. They had George and Maggie Masters and their baby living with them which made things even harder than they already were since the Master’s were not model houseguests. They probably didn’t even celebrate Laura or Pa and Mary’s birthdays either. With the lack of food and supplies Ma couldn’t make a special birthday dinner or even a cake as she barely had enough to make a loaf a bread every day. The Christmas dinner in May was probably a celebration of Christmas, birthday’s and just making through that winter all rolled into one.

  3. Connie in Colorado says:

    I always looked at the omission of Laura’s older birthdays as her way of showing how her world was broadening. Her circle is growing beyond the nuclear family and her horizons are expanding (as in the Woodward party). Thanks for the fun look at some of Laura’s 90 birthdays!

  4. Marsha Heien says:

    Almanzo and his friend went out of town to bring back a load of wheat…


  5. Heather Budgell says:

    Is the photo Laura Ingalls Wilder or Ida Brown Thank you, Heather >

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