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Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pioneering Journeys of the Ingalls Family
Walnut Grove, Minnesota
Laura and Mary Attend School


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Laura and Mary walked two and one half miles to attend the one-room school in Walnut Grove. Ma gave the girls a speller, a reader, an arithmetic book that she used when she was little and a little tin pail with their lunch of bread and butter under a clean cloth. Laura was in a class by herself because she was the only student who could not read. At school Laura and Mary met mean Nellie Oleson who wrinkled her nose and called them "country girls."

McGuffy Reader and a writing slate
A slate and a "McGuffey Reader"

Their teacher told Laura and Mary that they must have a slate to write on. When Laura and Mary went into Mr. Oleson's store to purchase a slate, Nellie and her brother, Willie, teased the girls and stuffed candy into their mouths. When Laura and Mary attended Nellie's town party, Nellie wouldn't let Laura touch her new wax doll.

Two girls with their dolls
Two girls with their dolls
--Photo courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa, 402 Iowa Avenue, Iowa City , IA 52240 http://www.iowahistory.org


Nellie had two dolls. One doll had a china head, china hair and tiny china feet. The other doll was made of wax and had real golden hair, a blue silk dress and leather slippers. What can you discover about the girls and their toys in this old photograph?




This doll is a replica of Charlotte , Laura's rag doll. Laura's mother had made Charlotte for Laura's Christmas present all those years ago in Wisconsin . She had wavy black yarn hair, a red yarn mouth and shoe-button eyes and Laura still loved her.

a creek

A creek
--Photo courtesy of Joshua James Evans


Laura and Mary invited the girls in their class to a country party. Laura got even with mean Nellie by enticing her into Plum Creek near the rock where an old crab lived.


When he scuttled out from under his rock to nip at Nellie's toes, she ran straight into the muddy water that was full of leeches. When Nellie came out of the water, she screamed and kicked when she saw her legs and feet covered with the ugly brown leeches.



Laura's mother made vanity cakes for the party. The cakes weren't sweet but were crisp and hollow inside like a giant bubble. Here is a recipe for vanity cakes from an old cookbook.

3 egg yokes
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons cream
Flour (to make stiff dough)

Mix all ingredients and knead well. Then roll very thin on board. Cut or tear in pieces. The more ragged they are, the better they look. Fry in deep fat. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

For more information, please contact:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum
330 Eighth Street
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
507-859-2358 or toll free 800-528-7280
www.walnutgrove.org or e-mail: lauramuseum@walnutgrove.org

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum
P.O. Box 488
210 Parkside Drive
West Branch, IA 52358 | 319-643-5301