Mary Ingalls

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Mary Amelia Ingalls
MaryIngalls 1.jpg
Mary Amelia Ingalls
Mary Amelia Ingalls

(1865-01-10)January 10, 1865
near Pepin, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedOctober 20, 1928(1928-10-20) (aged 63)

Mary Amelia Ingalls (January 10, 1865 – October 20, 1928) was born near the town of Pepin, Wisconsin. She was the first child of Caroline and Charles Ingalls and older sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, known for her Little House book series.[citation needed]


At the age of 14, Ingalls suffered an illness—thought to be scarlet fever—at the time believed to have caused her to lose her eyesight.[1] A 2013 study published in the journal Pediatrics, concluded it was actually viral meningoencephalitis that caused Ingalls' blindness, based on evidence from first-hand accounts and newspaper reports of her illness as well as relevant school registries and epidemiologic data on blindness and infectious diseases.[2][3][4] Between 1881 and 1889, Ingalls attended the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, Iowa.[citation needed]

The historical record is silent as to why Ingalls did not attend school during one year in that period, but she did finish the seven-year course of study in 1889 and graduated. She then returned home to De Smet, South Dakota, living with her parents. Ingalls contributed to the family income by making fly nets for horses. After her father died in 1902, Ingalls and her mother rented out a room in their home for extra income. Following her mother's death in April 1924, Ingalls lived for a time with her sister, Grace Ingalls Dow in Manchester, South Dakota.[citation needed]

Ingalls family plot, De Smet Cemetery, South Dakota
Mary Ingalls' headstone at De Smet Cemetery, South Dakota

After that, Ingalls travelled to Keystone, South Dakota, to live with her sister Carrie Ingalls Swanzey. It was there that Ingalls suffered from a stroke. She died not long after as a result of pneumonia on October 20, 1928, at the age of 63. Her body was returned to De Smet, where she was buried in the Ingalls family plot next to her parents at De Smet Cemetery.[citation needed][5][6]

In popular culture[edit]

Ingalls was portrayed in the television series Little House on the Prairie by actress Melissa Sue Anderson. The television version of Mary Ingalls became a teacher in a school for the blind and married a blind fellow teacher, Adam Kendall, who was portrayed by Linwood Boomer.[citation needed][7] The real Mary Ingalls never became a teacher nor married but returned to De Smet to live with her parents after graduating from Vinton.[8][9]


  1. ^ Benge, Janet and Geoff (2005). Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Storybook Life. YWAM Publishing. p. 180. ISBN 1-932096-32-9.
  2. ^ Allexan, Sarah S.; Byington, Carrie L.; Finkelstein, Jerome I.; Tarini, Beth A. (2013). "Blindness in Walnut Grove: How Did Mary Ingalls Lose Her Sight?". Pediatrics. peds.2012-1438.
  3. ^ Dell'Antonia, KJ (February 4, 2013). "Scarlet Fever Probably Didn't Blind Mary Ingalls". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  4. ^ Serena, Gordon (February 4, 2013). "Mistaken Infection 'On The Prairie'?". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
  5. ^ "Rites Held At De Smet For Pioneer Of County". The Daily Argus-Leader. October 21, 1928.
  6. ^ "Mary Amelia Ingalls". Find A Grave. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  7. ^ "Salesman turns actor". The Advocate. November 11, 1978.
  8. ^ Holloway, Diane (November 30, 1980). "Sight for sore eyes". Austin American-Statesman.
  9. ^ McGlynn, Ann (September 3, 2001). "Blind school's budget slashed". Quad-City Times.

Further reading[edit]

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