Meet Laura Ingalls! As a hobby, I customize American Girl dolls into people from history or characters from fictional books. One of my earliest custom projects was creating a Laura Ingalls doll.
As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie. My custom Laura doll has shown up in a couple of posts on the blog and will continue to travel with me as I visit more Laura sites. She traveled to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home in Mansfield, MO and was even beat up by Nellie Oleson! See Laura Meets Nellie Oleson.
I have seen many different interpretations of Laura dolls, but chose to base mine on the actress Melissa Gilbert. Since I grew up watching the Little House on the Prairie TV show, I can’t picture Laura any other way. I started my search for a fair-skinned, Josefina mold. A friend of mine had found an abused Julie doll and I bought her for $20. Her body had bleach stains, the neck strings were cut. Her hair had been cut to the scalp, but she was perfect with those brown eyes! I removed her head and placed it on a different body. I did re-use the bleached body in another project. (My work table is covered in doll body parts; limbs, eyes, wigs, etc. 😂)
I removed the cut blonde wig and added a wig from a Marisol doll (Girl of the Year 2005). I wish I had purchased a thicker wig for her, but this was my first custom doll and at the time, I had no idea we would travel together. 😊 Now I feel if I change her wig, she won’t be my Laura.
When I first created my Laura doll, I dressed her in clothes from Kirsten’s and Addy’s collections, but decided she needed her own outfits. Through collecting, I have met some amazing people and one of them is a seamstress that follows the blog! She created this adorable purple dress for Laura. Check out her Etsy shop at PCDollClothesbySheri.
Who was the real Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder?
Laura Ingalls was born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin to her parents Charles and Caroline Ingalls. The family moved several times, across multiple states in Laura’s young life before settling in De Smet, South Dakota. As a young woman, Laura began helping her family financially by becoming a teacher two months before her sixteenth birthday. Later, Laura admitted that she didn’t enjoy teaching but felt the need to help her family.
At the age of eighteen, she married twenty-eight year old Almanzo Wilder. Married life was difficult in the beginning for the Wilders. Almanzo suffered from complications from a bout with diphtheria that left him partially paralyzed, the couple’s newborn son died at twelve days old and they lost their home to a fire accidentally set by their young daughter Rose. After several years of severe drought the Wilder’s were left with debt from being unable to make a living on their farm. In 1894, they decided to start over by moving to Mansfield, Missouri and buying property which they later named Rocky Ridge Farm. In the beginning the farm wasn’t prosperous, but over the years the Wilders were able to increase their property to 200 acres, add-on to their farmhouse and have a fairly prosperous fruit, poultry and dairy farm.
Laura began writing for the Ruralist newspaper. Her column, “As A Farm Woman Thinks” gained a loyal following. After the Wider’s lost most of their savings in the stock market during the Great Depression, Laura began writing down her memories in hopes to generate some income. Her first book Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932. By 1943, Laura had a total of eight books published and two more were published after her death in 1957. Her books are still in print today and have been published in over forty languages. A bust of Laura sits in the Hall of Famous Missourians in the Missouri State Capitol Rotunda. More information on the Wilder’s life and farm in Missouri can be found in my post Laura Ingalls Wilder Home.