The Long Winter: What really happened?

The winter of 1880-1881 was one of the worst winters that South Dakota had ever seen. Blizzards began in early October and continued into late April, bringing catastrophic conditions to the western plains.  The blizzards themselves would come every few days and last 2-3 days. Houses were completely covered and trains were trapped on the tracks. Men attempted to clear the way for trains, but it ended up being a lost cause when another blizzard arrived. Newly formed towns, like De Smet, were quickly running out of supplies. Settlers soon found themselves without food and a way to keep warm. At this point in history, it was rare to see a tree on the Dakota prairie. The town of De Smet had one lone tree standing, otherwise it was flat, open prairie. Once they ran out of coal and wood wasn’t an option, settlers began to burn hay. Pa and Laura would spend hours making the hay into twists. It would take a lot of them to keep the back room of the store building warm. Food was becoming scarce. Laura describes Ma using her coffee grinder to make the seed wheat into flour, which was a long and exhausting task. The family lived on bread for a couple of months. By the end of the winter, Laura never wanted to see brown bread again.

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A train trapped in snow during the winter of 1880-1881

Laura originally titled her sixth book The Hard Winter, but the publisher thought that children wouldn’t want to read about something that was “hard”, so Laura agreed to change it to The Long Winter instead. Laura also chose to leave out a very big detail when it came to this book. The Ingalls’ were not alone in the store building Pa had built. A young couple, named George and Maggie Masters, and their newborn son lived with the Ingalls the entire winter.  George Masters was the son of Walnut Grove schoolmaster Uncle Sam. He had moved out west and started working for the De Smet railroad. He brought his Scottish wife, Maggie, with him. The situation with the young couple was a difficult one. Caroline Ingalls said that Maggie would have a baby, but to soon after the time she was married. George’s family were disgraced that he had married Maggie and refused to let the couple stay with them. They had no where to go and the Ingalls felt bad for them. The couple’s stay was supposed to be brief. When winter set in the Ingalls had no choice but to let them stay. The alternative would be kicking them out in the street. The Ingalls family would soon find out that the hard winter was going to be even worse than expected.

 

Around one hundred people were trapped in De Smet during the long winter. Pa was stuck with nine mouths to feed instead of six. Servings got smaller and smaller as the winter dragged on. George was usually the first one at the table and always took more than his share. Laura despised the man for his careless attitude towards other people. He never helped Pa with chores. Instead, he would stay huddled by the stove with his wife and son. When it came time to grind seed wheat into flour, Maggie took no part in helping Ma and Mary. She sat in one of the prime spots near the stove and left the household chores to everyone else as well. George told Pa that he would pay his part of living expenses once he found work in the spring. In Pioneer Girl, Laura wrote that he paid a “scant” amount next fall. When winter was over and the Masters finally left, Laura wasn’t ashamed to be happy about it.

Laura did not include the Masters in The Long Winter because she wanted to keep the focus on her family and their struggles. In a letter written to her daughter Rose, she further explained her decision, saying the couple would have to be portrayed “as they were and that would spoil the story” (Pioneer Girl 215). Laura was happy when she finished writing The Long Winter because it had been a trying time for her and her family. She felt like she had been transported back to that time and in no way did she want to relive it for longer than she had to.

Sources:

Fraser, Caroline. Prairie Fires. New York, Metropolitan Books, 2017.

Wilder, Laura I, and Pamela Smith Hill. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Pierre, South Dakota Historical Society, 2014.

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Ida Brown and Mary Power: What happened to Laura’s friends?

Laura mentions a lot of different people she came to know throughout the Little House book series. When she got older and her family finally settled in De Smet, SD, she was finally able to make some friends. She spent time with Ida Brown, Minnie Johnson, Mary Power, and Florence Wilkins during school.  For this blog I’ll talk about two of Laura’s friends and what happened to them after Laura got married and lost touch.

Mary Power

“Mary Power’s eyes smiled. They were dark blue eyes. fringed with long, black lashes.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

Mary Power

Mary Power was born on April 3, 1866 in Tuscarora, New York. She was the fourth surviving child of Thomas and Elizabeth Power. Thomas had served in the Civil War, but was discharged in 1865. He resumed his job of being a tailor afterwards, but found that there was a lot of competition in the trade. He decided it would be best to move the family west. Mary was around the age of 4 when the family moved to Kasson, Minnesota and started a new life there. Mary gained another brother and sister during the approximate 12 years they lived there. In 1880, Mary’s father wanted to go west again and take advantage of the Homestead Act. He also hoped to gain new clientele for his tailor business. The family arrived in De Smet shortly after that. Thomas filed a claim on the southwest of town and opened up his tailor shop on main street.

Laura met Mary Power when the two girls attended school together. While Laura and Almanzo paired off, so did Mary and Cap Garland. The two couples took a sleigh ride one day that Laura wrote about in her books. Mary and Cap continued to see each other for the next few years. The relationship between the two ended after Mary met Edwin P. Sanford and the two started courting. Laura talked about Mary and her new beau, Ed, coming to singing school in These Happy Golden Years. Ed was the bookkeeper at the Kingsbury County Bank until it was incorporated in 1885. He then became a stockholder and cashier. Mary and Ed were married on August 9, 1890, which was five years after Laura and Almanzo got married. In 1900, the couple finished building a home on 3rd street in De Smet. They were very involved in the social scene in town, often entertaining guests at their home. By 1907, Mary, her mother, and Ed sold their home and moved to Bellingham, Washington. Ed became the director of the bank there and provided a comfortable living for Mary. They purchased a beautiful piece of land and built a home with modern amenities such as air conditioning and plumbing.

Mary became ill in 1928 and passed away a year later at the age of 63. The couple never had any children, but doted on their many nieces and nephews. Ed joined Mary in 1932, dying at the age of 67.

Ida B. Wright

“She seemed about as old as Laura, and as shy. She was small and slim. Her soft brown eyes were large in a small round face. Her hair was black and softly wavy, and around her forehead the short hairs curled.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

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Ida Belle Wright was born on September 24, 1866 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the fourth child of Thomas and Catherine Wright. Tragically, Ida lost the majority of her family in the Great Chicago Fire in the fall of 1871. Her older brother, Henry, was adopted and taken west. Ida was supposedly adopted from a children’s home by Reverend and Mrs. Edward Brown, although what year this occurred isn’t clear. Ida did live with the Browns in Salem, Wisconsin before moving to a claim south of De Smet. Here, Ida would meet Laura and the two girls became close friends. Laura never mentioned Ida teaching in her books, but Ida was teaching a small school in Manchester, SD while Laura was teaching the Wilkin School. Ida was present at Laura and Almanzo’s wedding in 1885 and gifted Laura a strand of white silk lace. She was there with her beau, Elmer McConnell, who she eventually married on December 3, 1885.

The couple moved to a tree claim near De Smet and had three children while living there. In the early 1890s, the couple moved to West Superior, Wisconsin. Elmer worked odd jobs around town to support their family, which grew by two while in Wisconsin. The McConnells made one last move to Perkins, California in 1911. Their children were now married and lived throughout the United States. Some of them stayed in California to be near Ida and Elmer. Ida passed away in January of 1926 at the age of 59. Her husband, Elmer, passed away in November of 1942 at the age of 81. Ida died before Laura started writing her books, but descendants of Ida were aware of the connection shared between the two friends.

Sources:

Terranna, Gina. “Mary Power, From Prairie to the Pacific Coast.” Lore, vol. 31, no. 2, 2005.

Cleaveland, Nancy and Linsenmayer, Penny. “Ida B. Wright, Laura’s Friend.” Lore, vol. 30, no. 1, 2004.

The Lore is a newsletter published by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society in De Smet, SD. If you are interested in learning more about Laura, her family, and friends, then make a contribution of at least $25 to receive a free subscription to the Lore.  You can also purchase The Best of the Lore, which is a compilation of the newsletter, in our gift shop or through our website.

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What happened to Laura’s sisters?

Have you ever wondered what became of Mary, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls? We know a little about the lives of Laura’s sisters through the “Little House” book series, but what happened to them after the series ended?

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Mary Ingalls

Mary Ingalls

Wilder describes Mary’s blindness in her fifth book, By the Shores of Silver Lake, stating, “Mary and Carrie and baby Grace and Ma had all had scarlet fever..the fever had settled in Mary’s eyes, and Mary was blind” (By the Shores of Silver Lake, p. 1-2).  A few years ago, new research was presented indicating that Mary may not have suffered from Scarlet Fever but a form of viral meningoencephalitis.

Mary began college at the Iowa College for the Blind in November 1881. She would complete the seven year course eight years later. We are still unsure why Mary missed a year during that time. Mary learned an abundance of information while at college; according to The Ingalls Family of De Smet, some of the subjects Mary studied were Arithmetic, History, Physiology, Chemistry, Literature, Algebra, and Political Economy. Mary also became skilled in music. Laura gave Pa her $75 that she received for teaching the Perry School in order to buy Mary an organ, so she could enjoy it while she was home from college.

After Mary graduated college she would return to De Smet and live with Ma and Pa at their house on 3rd Street. She helped Ma with the housework and enjoyed reading, sewing, and making bead work. Mary returned from college after her first year and brought Laura a gift of “a bracelet of blue and white beads strung on thread and woven together” (These Happy Golden Years, p. 126). After Pa died in 1902, Mary and Ma became extremely close. The two women were loved by the community but often kept to themselves. Caroline Ingalls would pass away in 1924. A couple years later Mary decided to visit her sister, Carrie, in Keystone, South Dakota, and while she was there she suffered a series of strokes and eventually passed away in 1928 at the age of 63. Mary never let her blindness keep her from doing what she wanted and lived a very fulfilling life.

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Carrie Ingalls Swanzey

Carrie Ingalls Swanzey

After graduating high school, Carrie went on to work for the De Smet Newspaper, where she learned about the printing and publishing trade. She also wrote articles and practiced the art of photography. One of the first pictures that she took was of Ma sitting in the Ingalls home parlor. It was not too much longer until Carrie became a homesteader herself. According to The Ingalls Family of De Smet, Carrie claimed land in western South Dakota near the town of Philip, SD. She lived in a small shanty and spent the required six months on the claim. She did not stay there for long, however, because she returned to the newspaper industry when she moved to Keystone, SD.

It was in Keystone that Carrie met David Swanzey. He was 16 years older than her and was a widower with two children. David was looking for a wife to be a mother to his two young children. The whirlwind romance between Carrie and David lasted only 6 months before the two got married. Carrie, who was 42 at the time, would never have any children of her own. She became the stepmother to David’s two children and raised them as her own. Her husband, David, helped name Mt. Rushmore, while his son, Harold, helped build it. Carrie lived a long life. She died in 1946 at the age of 75.

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Grace Ingalls Dow

Grace Ingalls Dow

After graduating high school, Grace attended Redfield College in preparation to become a teacher. She followed the footsteps of Ma and her sister, Laura, and started teaching schools around the small town of Manchester, which was about 8 miles west of De Smet. While teaching she met Nathan Dow, who was 18 years older than her. The two began courting and would eventually get married in the parlor of the Ingalls Home in 1901. The couple moved to their own homestead in Manchester and became farmers.

Grace and Nathan would never have any children of their own. After Ma died in 1924, Grace and Nathan moved in with Mary to care for her in De Smet. They eventually returned to their homestead once Mary left to visit Carrie in Keystone. The town of Manchester no longer stands today. It was wiped out by a tornado in 2003 and is no longer considered a town. Grace, who suffered from severe diabetes, died in 1941 at the age of 63. Her husband outlived her by 2 years.

Check out our blog post about Manchester!

 

Grace Ingalls Dow’s Home: The Fall of Manchester, SD

Grace Ingalls Dow, Laura’s youngest sister, was often overlooked in the Little House book series because of her age. She was only eight years old when Laura married Almanzo in 1885. Grace would grow up and become a teacher herself, get married, and settle in the small town of Manchester, South Dakota. Once a bustling railroad town, Manchester was wiped off the map by a tornado in 2003. A few of our tour guides decided to visit the town that once was and tried to imagine what it was like when Grace lived there.

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Grace Ingalls Dow

Grace Pearl Ingalls was born on May 23, 1877, in Burr Oak, Iowa. She was the final child of Charles and Caroline Ingalls. Her birth was not mentioned in the Little House books since Laura did not include the time spent in Burr Oak. Instead, Grace was already present in By the Shores of Silver Lake and took over the role that Carrie once held as the youngest child. Laura often mentioned Grace sitting on Mary’s lap, especially during the long winter. She got lost in the Big Slough when the family first settled on their homestead, which led the family in a frantic search. Grace never had a big role in the book series, but was more of a supporting character.

Since many of our visitors and Little House fans are unfamiliar with Grace’s life story, this blog post will help fill in the gaps. She graduated high school in De Smet and continued her education at college. Grace followed the footsteps of her Ma and sister, Laura, and became a teacher, often teaching schools in the town of Manchester, a town 7 miles west of De Smet.  It was here that she met her future husband Nathan Dow. The two got married in 1901. The ceremony took place in the parlor of the Ingalls home on third street. The couple then returned to Manchester, became farmers, and stayed there for the rest of their lives.

Manchester was named after a pioneer settler. Like De Smet, it grew at a rapid pace because of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad being right beside it. Numerous buildings were built, including homes, a town hall,  depot, restaurant, bank, hotel, newspaper, lumber yard, two grocery stores, two blacksmith shops, two churches, schools, a town pump, etc. Many settlers flocked to the town, hoping to take advantage of the homestead act and prove up on a piece of land they hoped one day would be theirs. Grace and Nathan settled on their own homestead about a mile from town, near Redstone Creek. Manchester is also the birthplace of Harvey Dunn, a famous painter and illustrator. He often took inspiration from his time in Manchester while creating different pieces of art.

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Early photo of Manchester, SD

picture source: South Dakota State Historical Society

Grace Ingalls Dow died on November 10, 1941 in Manchester. By that point, the town was already struggling to keep its current residents and attract more. The Chicago and Northwester Railroad was no longer of importance. Less train traffic meant less growth. The Great Depression arrived in the 1930s, causing more residents to leave and move to other places in search of work. A once busy town eventually had a population of only 100 people. These residents were farmers that lived on the outskirts of town. On August 27, 1961, over 150,000 people arrived in Manchester to celebrate the Dakota Territory Centennial Gold rush. Entertainment included a carnival, talent show, dance, and fireworks display. During the day hundreds of contestants dug for prices, some of them worth $10,000.  The event brought many well known politicians, actors, and entertainers to the area, including a young Clint Eastwood. This event was sponsored by KELOLand Television to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of Dakota Territory. This event marked the last time that Manchester saw such a large crowd of people.

By the mid 1980s, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad abandoned the line, but eventually sold it to the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad.  In the early 2000s, only two operating businesses were left in the town of Manchester. The fate of the town would be sealed on June 24, 2003 when a F-4 category tornado made its way through the town, leaving devastation in its wake.

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Manchester before and after the tornado

On the evening of June 24, 2003, a F-4 category tornado came barreling towards Manchester from the south. Winds gusted up to 200 miles a hour. The buildings that still remained, including the post office, were immediately destroyed. The tornado then traveled north, demolishing two homes that stood close to town. Buildings, belongings of residents, and trees were mutilated, vacuumed up, or completely destroyed by the fierce winds. The tornado left nothing in its wake, completely erasing the 122 year history of the once bustling town of Manchester.  The tornado made history. The National Geographic Society observed an air pressure drop of 100 millibars in 12 seconds as the center of the tornado approached. Tim Samaras, a tornado researcher, said that it “was the biggest drop ever recorded” and it would feel like “stepping into an elevator and hurtling up 4,000 feet in 10 seconds.”

After the tornado, the town was abandoned. A handful of residents stayed and continued to farm, but the area is now considered a ghost town. A town once full of people, hope, and excitement all but disappeared into thin air. The flagpole that belonged to the town school and the town water pump still remain. Otherwise, the town is now part of the countryside. The old dirt roads are surrounded by prairie grass. Foundations from buildings that once stood sit in decay. In 2007, a granite marker was placed to commemorate the town’s history and past residents. Grace’s married name, Dow, is one of the names listed.

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Sunset over Manchester

Although Manchester is gone, I found visiting the site of it to be peaceful and tranquil. We decided to visit during sunset, so we were able to imagine the many sunsets that Grace could see from her home. The town of Manchester may be gone, but the spirit of the town will live on for many years to come.

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Flagpole from the town school

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The town water pump still remains, despite taking a direct hit from the tornado

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Grace’s last name, Dow, engraved on the granite marker

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Foundation from a building destroyed by the tornado

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The railroad that brought growth to Manchester

The Mystery of the Rocky Mountain Locust

 

 

 

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Minnesota locusts of the 1870s” Source: http://www.mnopedia.org/multimedia/minnesota-locusts-1870s

In Wilder’s fourth book, “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” Laura describes in detail a large cloud that darkened the sky. The family assumed their crops would get much needed rain; however, it would not be rain that fell from the sky, but grasshoppers. Laura describes, “Plunk! Something hit Laura’s head and fell to the ground. She looked down and saw the largest grasshopper she had ever seen. The huge brown grasshoppers were hitting all around her, hitting her head and her face and her arms” (On the Banks of Plum Creek, 194). These grasshoppers, called Rocky Mountain Locusts, rained down on the Minnesota prairie and decimated the land. They would eat everything green in their sight, like leaves, plants, and Pa’s crops. Wilder mentioned that because of these locusts, Pa had to make the 100 mile walk back east to find work. The family was affected by the same grasshoppers the next year. According to the article, Locust, by Jeffrey Lockwood, these locusts would become mysteriously extinct in the 1870’s after a wetter climate came into affect.

Jeffrey Lockwood, a science and humanities professor, wanted to solve the years long mystery of the Rocky Mountain Locusts, calling it “the quintessential ecological mystery of the North American Continent.” Lockwood goes on to explain that this breed of locust was at its greatest abundance on the Great Plains, even rivaling the bison population. He believed the dry weather caused the locusts to come baring down on farmers, sending them into a financial mess.

At the time, the U.S. government decided they needed to do something about the locusts. Although they had given relief to some of the farmers affected, it was not enough. They named three men to the Entomological Commission: Charles Valentine Riley, Cyrus Thomas, and Alpheus Packard. It would be their job to gather information about the locusts, research them, and find a solution to the problem. The three men did not disappoint. They found a large sum of information regarding the locusts’ “ecology, behavior, anatomy, reproduction, and distribution of the locust, and suggested practical ways for the farmers to battle the insects” (Hopkins). The men were about to publish their findings; however, in the late 1870’s the locusts went extinct. The drought had disappeared and the locusts disappeared with it.

Since their extinction, many theories have been put out to explain why it happened. According to BioScience, one of the biggest theories was that the locusts were somehow connected to the bison. When bison started to disappear in the American West, so did the Rocky Mountain Locust. The two species coexisted on the Great Plains for centuries. Maybe bison somehow altered the grasslands to favor the survival of the locust. Another theory involved alfalfa, which grasshoppers considered tasty. In studies, it showed that alfalfa was damaging to the growth of the locust in its premature stages. Therefore, it was the culprit on why the locust went extinct. Lockwood, the author of Locust, offered a new explanation. He believes that, “cattle grazing and homesteaders’ cultivation of restricted region of the plains-the permanent breeding grounds of the insect- during a population recession of the locust in the 1880’s may have irreversibly disrupted locust reproduction.”

While we may never know the true cause of the Rocky Mountain Locust’s mysterious extinction, we have a better idea of what may have happened. Like Laura’s family, these insects affected thousands of farmers and changed the course of history.

Sources:

Hopkins, Theodore L. “Extinction of the Rocky Mountain Locusts.” BioScience, https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/55/1/80/248302. Accessed 30 May 2018.

Lockwood, Jeffrey. Locust, New York, Basic Books, 2004.

 

 

 

Meet Our New Intern

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The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society welcomes Whitney as their summer intern. Whitney grew up in southern Illinois, but currently resides in middle Tennessee. Some of the projects she will  be working on include: maintaining the social media for the Society, helping with special events, giving tours, and learning about the inner workings of a museum. Whitney will spend 12 weeks here in De Smet, SD.

Whitney was first introduced to Laura’s story in fourth grade. Her class was learning about pioneers and her teacher decided to show the Little House on the Prairie movie. Whitney was fascinated with Laura and her life, that she went home and begged her mom to buy her the first season of the television series. Eventually, after buying all ten seasons and binge watching them, Whitney discovered the “Little House” book series. Then, she begged her parents to go to the bookstore so she could buy the books. During the next few years Whitney would research and read about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her life. She found Laura to be an inspiration. This woman had gone through so many hardships, but still managed to look on the bright side of things. One of Whitney’s favorite quotes of Wilder’s only proves how strong of a women she was:

“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.”  -Laura Ingalls Wilder

As Whitney got older she still had a love for Laura. She continued to read about her life. Two of her favorite books to read about Wilder are Pioneer Girl, Laura’s unpublished autobiography, and Caroline Fraser’s new book, Prairie Fires. Three years ago Whitney saw that the museum in De Smet offered a summer internship. Since then she has worked towards the goal of getting that internship. After two years of college, Whitney was able to apply for the internship. To her excitement she was offered the position and arrived in De Smet about three weeks later.

What book of Laura’s is your favorite and why?

I would have to say my favorite book is These Happy Golden Years. I thought it was interesting to see how Laura grew up and started seeing things differently. She was only fifteen when she started teaching and moved away from her family for the first time. It was a big adjustment for her at such a young age. I’m a sucker for romance novels so I loved reading about Laura and Almanzo’s simple and sweet love story. Laura was completely naive when it came to Almanzo’s intentions, but luckily she saw them in time and the two got married. I liked how the book ended on a happy note and came full circle. I started watching the TV series and reading the books at a young age and was able to grow up with her.

What is your favorite historical building at the Museum?

I really like the First School of De Smet. The building had been turned into a residential home. When the Society was able to purchase it we found that it still held a lot of historical value. Behind the layers of wallpaper we found the original blackboards. I have always loved history so original blackboards and floors are very interesting to me. The school holds a lot of history about Laura and the people who have lived there so I really enjoy sharing with my tour groups.

What book about Laura’s life and legacy is your favorite?

I recently read, Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser and really enjoyed it. It is by far the most in depth biography I have read about Laura and her daughter Rose. I am always wanting to learn more about Laura and her life and this book was filled with details that I didn’t know about beforehand. It went into a lot of detail about the relationship between mother and daughter and how it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I would recommend this book to any Laura fan. It is a book you will want to read more than once.

Maria Tallchief- Pioneer for Native American Women in Ballet

One night in 1949, a 24-year-old woman named Maria was poised backstage, awaiting her cue. Her costume was elaborate and dramatic, which suited the passionate dancer well. Every muscle in her body felt coiled in anticipation. It was opening night, the night that would decide whether this show would make or break her career. But as the opening stirrings of Stravinsky’s Firebird sounded through the theater, Maria discovered she was not nervous. She was ready.

Maria was born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief on January 24, 1925, on a small town in Oklahoma’s Osage Native American Reservation. Born to an Osage father and a Scottish/Irish mother, both Elizabeth Marie and her sister Marjorie showed early talent in ballet. When the family moved from Oklahoma to Los Angeles, CA, Elizabeth continued her dancing studies. During this time she chose the stage name Maria Tallchief, resisting pressure from peers who thought her “Indian” last name would be a hindrance in the dancing world. 

maria-tallchiefMaria’s first position in a ballet company came after the outbreak of World War II, when she joined a leading New York-based touring company called the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Maria quickly gained attention among ballet critics for her precise technique, her passion, and her frenetic energy. She threw everything into her performances with incredible energy and athleticism, striving to make each performance her best. She danced with several prominent ballet companies in America, catching the attention of famed choreographer George Balanchine. In addition, she became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. In 1947, she became America’s first prima ballerina, dancing with the New York City Ballet. She worked closely with Balanchine, and he created several roles for her that would go on to become iconic representations of American ballet. These included Orpheus, Caracole, and Firebird.

Despite her growing fame in the glamorous dancing worlds of New York and Paris, Maria remained proud of her Osage Native American heritage. She resisted any attempts to stereotype her or other Native Americans, and wanted to be judged solely on the basis of her talent.  “Above all, I wanted to be appreciated as a prima ballerina who happened to be a Native American, never as someone who was an American Indian ballerina.” Through her efforts, Maria Tallchief’s name became synonymous with American ballet during the mid-twentieth century.

12ac6d59db8a65eb62e9a12aae6e5990Maria continued to dance with the New York City Ballet until her retirement from the stage in 1965. Soon after she moved to Chicago, where she created a lasting impression on the Chicago ballet scene through her teaching. She founded a ballet school known as the Lyric Opera in 1974, and in 1981 she began a six-year run as the artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet. In 1996, Maria became one of five American artists to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, and later that year she was inducted into the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Maria’s startling energy and passion for dance helped to shape modern American ballet, and her pride in her Osage heritage made her a true pioneer.